Does your project involve native lizards? Here’s what you need to know.

Does your project involve native lizards? Here’s what you need to know. Does your project involve native lizards? Here’s what you need to know. Does your project involve native lizards? Here’s what you need to know. Does your project involve native lizards? Here’s what you need to know.

New Zealand's native lizards are all protected under various legislation. If your project site is near their habitat, you'll need to follow the required protocols.

New Zealand has over 110 native lizard species in two groups – geckos and skinks.

What’s the difference?

An easy way to remember is: skinks can blink. (Geckos can’t.)

A gecko’s skin is covered with tiny scales that give its skin a soft appearance, while skinks have larger, shiny scales. Many geckos are brightly coloured, as opposed to the dull browns and greys of most skinks; and there are numerous other physiological differences.

All these lizards are ‘absolutely protected’ under the Wildlife Act (1953), which is administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC). Lizard habitats are also protected by the Resource Management Act (1991), which is administered by local government authorities.

Native lizards may live in a range of habitats, from urban areas to farmland, including places that may look weedy or otherwise considered of low value.

To ensure lizards in all of these areas are protected, an increasing number of land development consents have conditions that require lizard surveys and a management plan to capture and move lizards out of the project footprint.

Before you can begin site development, a suitably qualified ecologist or herpetologist (lizard and frog specialist) must have permission from DOC to catch, hold, and release any native lizard. This permission is granted by way of a Wildlife Act Authority with specific conditions prepared by DOC’s lizard Threat Advisory Group and other specialists.

These conditions will be specific to the likely species in the vicinity and their threat classification.

Because of their often cryptic colouration, and secretive behaviour and activity patterns, lizard surveys can be time-consuming depending on the habitat and species potentially present.

These surveys often require manual searches through potential habitat under logs and rocks, and amongst vegetation, visually searching for basking individuals, and spotlighting for nocturnal species. Some species can be trapped using artificial habitats or lured into traps by tasty baits such as tinned pears or cat food. Using a combination of methods, lizards can be captured and relocated to a suitable release site.

Boffa Miskell has surveyed and managed lizards for development projects across New Zealand; and in our experience  permit approval for complex projects can take six weeks or more.

It is best to begin liaison with DOC, tangata whenua and local authorities early to ensure good communication and timely permit approval. We have well-established relationships with the relevant agencies and iwi around the country and a thorough understanding of the permit application process, and can provide advice as to whether a permit would be required for your project.

For further information please contact Katherine Muchna

20 April 2018