Mokomoko (indigenous lizards) salvaged from the Takitimu North Link roading project have been relocated to their new permanent home on the maunga, Mauao in Tauranga Moana – giving them a chance to flourish in a new environment.
The Takitimu North Link project team (a Fulton Hogan/HEB Joint Venture) has completed ‘search and salvage’ work across the eastern section of the project’s potential lizard sites and this work is ongoing. The focus is making sure any mokomoko have the best chance of survival while construction is underway.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Director of Regional Relationships, David Speirs said: “This is a great example of partnership working for a common goal, to help the mokomoko flourish.
“As well as providing better and safer transport choices for the community, we have a strong focus on minimising the project’s impact on the environment and being good kaitiaki.
“There has been significant effort to get to this point and it’s heartening to know that even during a short time in captivity, the lizards are doing so well.”
About 40 indigenous copper skinks have been found at the site so far, along with more than 1000 plague skinks, an invasive Australian pest species which compete for indigenous lizards’ habitat and resources.
Copper skinks were once a non-threatened species, but their threat status shifted to “at risk, declining” in 2021, which reinforces the importance of the search and salvage work that we do.
The copper skinks were temporarily rehomed with an experienced lizard holder in Tauranga while the most suitable release sites were set up for them. Since the salvage work, several young have been born into this little whānau, boosting their numbers, and giving them an even better chance of survival.
The project’s environmental manager Stephanie Kirk said: “We know from this work that pest species vastly outnumber the indigenous in this rohe, they lay eggs while native copper skinks birth live young, and this means they multiply at a faster rate and take the lion’s share of habitat and food.”
The team has delivered the mahi working in partnership with tāngata whenua representatives of Ngā hapū o Te Paerangi, Pirirākau, and supported by the Mauao Trust, Tauranga City Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Department of Conservation and Wildlands.
Fulton Hogan and HEB Joint Venture Project Director Tony Gallagher said: “Kaitiakitanga (guardianship/protection) has a significant role across the Takitimu North Link project, which includes the protection, restoration and enhancement of habitats for indigenous creatures.
The team have worked extremely hard during this six-month process. It’s been a fantastic example of collaboration and enhancing mauri.”
Ecological outcomes are a key part of the roading project, which aims to tread lightly and care for the whenua, provide suitable habitats for flora and fauna and leave a legacy for future generations.
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The Takitimu North Link project is funded by the Government’s $8.7 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme investment in better and safer transport choices for growing communities. Six projects have already been completed and more than $2.1 billion of construction work is underway.
The new 6.8km expressway is a key strategic transport corridor for the region, and will provide greater travel choice, with a shared path for walking and cycling.
The rate of growth combined with existing safety, access and congestion issues means Takitimu North Link is a huge investment in the region’s growth.