News | 21 April 2023
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Moa Point Lizards on the move to new neighbourhood

Native lizards living at Moa Point are moving to new, custom-made habitats.

Moa point lizard in hands.

The lizards are being carefully and humanely trapped and relocated by ecologists to allow for site works to begin where a new sludge minimisation facility is going to be built.  

The project is being carried out by Wellington City Council, Wellington Water, and a McConnell Dowell HEB Construction as a joint venture.  

At least two species of lizard have been identified in the area expected to be affected when site works begin next month. They are the northern grass skink and Raukawa gecko. Copper skink and barking gecko may also be present but haven’t yet been found. 

The lizards are being relocated from the site as they are legally protected from disturbance, harm or death under the Wildlife Act.  

The lizards will be caught over April, and relocated to protected sites at Moa Point, and in the Miramar Peninsula, like Rangitatau Park, Tukanae Street Reserve, and Centennial Park.  

Project Ecologist Trent Bell, from the consultancy Beca, says thousands of lizards are expected to be trapped and moved to new homes using different release strategies, where habitats have been set up to make sure things are as cosy as possible in the new neighbourhood.  

People searching through the bush.

“We’re using traps baited with canned pear to lure the lizards in, and we will also do spotlighting to look for Raukawa geckos and barking geckos. 

“We’ve created habitats to make sure the lizards feel at home at their new location out of rocks, with release sites to be enhanced by native planting of shrubs and grasses, along with pest animal and weed control.”  

Sludge Minimisation Facility Project Director Janet Molyneux says the lizard removal is an important part of the project.  

“The team of experts doing the lizard removal have worked hard to do it carefully, and with as little disruption to the lizards as possible.  

“Wellington City Council and the project team are making sure the project delivers the best possible outcomes for the city, its community, and the environment.”   

Two lizards being held by someone.

Trent says the project team will also experimentally create vertical ecosystems to see if lizards will colonise them over time, which is a new concept.  

“A lot of lizards can live on creviced cliffs away from predatory mammals, such as rats. We’re looking at how we can emulate this habitat type, as it may be used across slope work commonly undertaken around the country.” 

The lizard’s new neighbourhood has already been cleared of lots of pests by Predator-Free Wellington, Predator-Free Miramar, and Te Motu Kairangi, which has also been planting trees, shrubs, and other native plants in the area.  

‘We’re grateful to them for having committed to making the peninsula pest-free and focussing on its ecological health. It means we have somewhere relatively safe for the lizards to go. We are building on this mahi by adding further pest control efforts around the lizard release sites, which will operate for five years,” Trent says.  

Lizards being held.

Lizard salvage and release work is seasonal and needs to be done in the warmer months of the year, between October and April. Warmer weather means the lizards are more active and easier to find and trap.  

A researcher will also be on site collecting data from individual lizards, including sex/life stage, morphometric measurements, and capture method. Researchers from Victoria University of Wellington will also monitor two sites where the lizards have been released.  

Work moving the lizards started after Easter and is expected to take most of April.  

Site works to prepare for the construction of the Sludge Minimisation Facility are expected to begin in May.