The project involved undertaking road widening and sensitive earthworks within a coastal environment. This area of coastline is significant as the first landing site of the Abel Tasman voyage to Aotearoa, it is an important coastline for the local iwi Manawhenua Kī Mohua, and a key habitat for the Little Blue Penguin.
CLIENT BRIEF/PROJECT CHALLENGES
We were engaged by Tasman District Council to complete a road widening project on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. At first the project seemed to be a standard roading project, albeit in a significant coastal environment but the project team quickly discovered the site was more significant than anticipated. During an initial survey of the site with one of our geologist, the team discovered a natural cave on the inland side of the road in an area known for Little Blue Penguin nesting sites.
In agreement with the client, we engaged Wild4Eva and her penguin tracking dog, Mica, to complete an investigation of the work site to identify any penguin nesting and travel routes. Mica quickly discovered that the penguin travel routes had the birds crossing the busy Abel Tasman Drive, a road that can see upwards of 3,000 vehicles per day in the height of summer. Following the completion of the investigation, we developed a plan to protect the penguins. We proposed the creation of a penguin culvert underpass, to allow the penguins to safely travel between the coastline and their nests. The solution also proposed seaward shoulder fencing to direct the penguins to the underpass.
The proposed solution satisfied both the Tasman District Council and the Department of Conservation that we were taking conservation of the penguins seriously. With support from all parties, the solution was granted non-notified consent and the project team recognised for their efforts to improve the safety of the aquatic birds.
The underpass, corner widening, and shoulder fencing is working well. There is a plan in place to conduct further investigations of the penguins. The investigation will enable us to check that the underpass is being utilised as anticipated. The provision of wildlife corridors such as this, is not common practice in New Zealand and the success of this project demonstrates that it is possible to improve and protect our native wildlife and environment, without significant impact to budget or delivery. The project has greatly improved connections and relationships between the local council, DOC and iwi, recognising the benefit of working together to truly understand and mitigate environmental effects.
The project highlights the importance of wildlife corridors to improve and protect our native wildlife and environment. When we work together to understand and mitigate the environmental impacts of projects, we can achieve greater results for all stakeholders – including wildlife.