Posted: 16 August 2007
Lizard relocation, seagrass trial funded
Plans to relocate eight lizard species to a local island and work to restore a beneficial undersea grass have secured more than $60,000 from a special fund designed to improve the health of Whangarei Harbour.
The cash is part of a 10-year, $500,000 Whangarei Harbour Health Improvement Fund funded by Northport Limited as part of the resource consent conditions for its multimillion dollar deepwater port at Marsden Pt.
The Northland Regional Council administers the fund and Bruce Howse, the Council’s Coastal Monitoring Team Leader, says Councillors agreed on the latest round of funding at their monthly meeting in Whangarei yesterday.
Included is a $10,664 grant to cover the first year’s costs of a three-year project by the Friends of Matakohe/Limestone Island Society to transfer eight lizard species to Matakohe/Limestone Island off Onerahi.
Planning for the relocation has been underway for about a decade and will include sourcing lizards from both mainland and island sites and quarantining and testing them for diseases before eventually moving them to Matakohe/Limestone Island.
However, the lion’s share of this year’s funding - $50,000-plus - will go to an ongoing project trialling the best ways to artificially restore seagrass in Whangarei Harbour.
Mr Howse says seagrass once covered hundreds of hectares of Whangarei Harbour before falling victim to sediment pollution.
“About 60 years ago, there were thriving undersea meadows of seagrass spread over about 1400 hectares of Whangarei Harbour, including areas around Takahiwai, One Tree Point, Snake Bank, Parua Bay and McDonald Bank.”
But by the 1970s only small pockets of seagrass remained as the plant succumbed to increased sedimentation that effectively starved it of sufficient sunlight.
Mr Howse says seagrass remains scarce to this day but research over the last few years by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has indicated that with help, the grass might now be capable of a comeback.
“Restoring even small areas of seagrass habitat would have a significant positive impact on the harbour’s ecological health as the grass serves as a nursery for juvenile fish, a home to marine invertebrates and provides areas for birds to forage in.“
He says the two projects approved by Councillors this week had been recommended after consultation with Northport and the Whangarei Harbour Kaitiaki Roopu.