Ecology and environmental impact at forefront of Kaikōura coastal work

North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) has presented to Kaikōura Water Zone Committee (KWZC) on their environmental and ecological work to mitigate impacts on local flora and fauna during their earthquake recovery work.

The NCTIR alliance was set-up to restore the road and rail networks that were damaged in North Canterbury following the November 2016 earthquake.

Repairing the transport corridor between Christchurch and Blenheim posed many different challenges, including how to safely restore access and travel routes, while avoiding impacting local flora and fauna where possible.

NCTIR has been working to minimise and mitigate effects of the rebuild programme on the environment, with a team of specialist ecologists and environmental advisors covering the State Highway from the Hundalees to Tirohanga Wetland, the Inland Road (Route 70) and Main North Line from Cheviot to Blenheim.

Transport corridor a Committee priority

The transport corridor remains one of Kaikōura Water Zone Committee’s top priorities in the Kaikōura Zone Implementation Plan (ZIP) (PDF File, 456.51KB)

The Implementation Plan was developed with the community to integrate actions and tactics to give effect to the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) in the Kaikōura Water Zone.

Kaikōura Water Zone Committee Chair Ted Howard said it was a "happy coincidence" that NCTIR's work fell into one the Committee's priority areas.

"We’ve been thrilled by how they have kept us up-to-date on all the ecological impacts and mitigations throughout the programme.

“The goal of having the transport corridor in the plan was to really ensure that State Highway 1 and the main trunk railway are managed, operated and developed in ways that maintain and where possible, improve waterways, and their wildlife,” he said.

Careful planning allows for safe fish passage

Temporary culverts allow for fish passage

Temporary culverts allow for fish passage while works take place

NCTIR has undertaken works on nearly every bridge and culvert crossing along the coast, which has required careful planning to reduce the effects on native fish.

More than 5,500 fish have been salvaged during stream works and NCTIR has reinstated fish passages in places where infrastructure had eroded and blocked off fish access to upper waterways.

Ecology has played an important role in all of NCTIR’s work. Ensuring as little impact to the environment is achieved, while still delivering engineering and access results.

Howard said all fish caught during NCTIR’s work have been reported to the New Zealand freshwater fish database, which provides a central resource for fish diversity information.

“It’s great to see that this information is adding to a national ‘big-picture’ for fish species and that anyone, anywhere can access it.”

Fish passage is a key focus for Environment Canterbury, with projects regionally looking at how biodiversity in waterways and wetland areas can be increased by altering culverts, dams and crossings to allow migratory fish access to locations further upstream.

Compliance, communication, and conservation

Monitoring and reporting is key to any large-scale project like this, and for the last three years, our Kaikōura staff have provided advice and explained what outcomes are required to achieve compliance onsite, to help NCTIR work through its responsibilities in repairing SH1.

NCTIR's Environmental Advisor Ross Glub said, “Environment Canterbury has assisted us and the wider community about learning what constitutes a non-compliance or a breach.” 

“Their Kaikōura based team has used a range of tools to educate, promote, and encourage compliance onsite while providing valuable advice on environmental best practice,” he said.

“Their professional approach and proactive communication led to a great working relationship with our project teams and our environmental advisors, ensuring environmental outcomes are prioritised.”

The project in numbers

A grass skink being relocated

A lizard being relocated during construction

  • 16,000+ seals moved by professional handlers since February 2017.
  • 5,500+ fish identified, measured, recorded and relocated to protect them during construction.
  • 150+ lizards relocated to protect them during construction.
  • Nine birds rescued while out in the field.
  • 42,500+ archaeological fish bones identified across 21 different species of fish.
  • 68,000 eco-sourced plants grown from seed for the project.

Find out more