DOC experts highlight wildlife threats at landfill hearings

Jennifer Germano, centre, said Waste Management’s proposed mitigation measures to protect wildlife could actually make things worse. 

Expert witnesses from the Department of Conservation (DOC) told commissioners considering a resource consent application for a landfill in the Dome Valley on Tuesday (December 1) that the proposed landfill poses a serious threat to wildlife and waterways.

Herpetologist Dr Jennifer Germano said the proposed landfill would have significant adverse impacts on Hochstetter’s frogs and five species of native lizards. She said Hochstetter’s were of international importance to conservation efforts, and the permanent loss of habitat would be a significant loss to the southern population of Northland Hochstetter.

She said the applicant Waste Management had proposed several methods of remedying the negative impacts on frogs and lizards including relocating the creatures to safer areas (salvage translocations), predator control and habitat enhancement.

But she said all of these options were either untested or had serious issues. She added the proposed remedies could even have negative impacts such as predator control that failed to take account of mice.

Commissioners also heard evidence from Tertia Thurley, an expert on bats. Ms Thurley said long-tailed bats were detected throughout the landfill site.

She said the landfill would likely lead to bat injury and death due to felling of trees, loss of foraging and drinking habitat, and loss of commuting pathways.  

She said the bat population was already under pressure from the impact of forestry and new roading in the region.

Ms Thurley was also critical of proposed mitigation efforts such as vegetation removal protocols and the installation of artificial roost boxes. She said the protocols were untested and artificial roost boxes likely to be a poor substitute for natural roots and would require ongoing maintenance.

Dr Susan Clearwater presented evidence on freshwater ecology aspects of the resource consent application.

Dr Clearwater said around 20km of stream habitat would be lost and streams that remained would be degraded. She said the translocation of freshwater fauna would do little to mitigate the high impacts on fish, crayfish and mussels at the project site.    

She said the negative impacts on freshwater ecology and wetlands were contrary to this year’s National Policy Statement on Freshwater.

Commissioners asked Dr Clearwater if deficiencies in the resource consent application could be addressed by imposing conditions on the consent.

Dr Clearwater said she had tried to assist the commissioners by suggesting improvements to consent conditions should the landfill go ahead, but this did not mean all of her concerns would be addressed by those conditions.  

The hearings are set to continue into mid-December.

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