Overseas backing for killer worm

Submissions from as afar afield as Costa Rica and Germany have been made to the Dunedin City Council to protect the habitat of a killer worm that lives beside the Caversham Highway.

A colony of peripatus worms has been protected and encouraged in a dank Caversham forest by Dunedin City Council staff and Forest and Bird for more than a decade.

The New Zealand Transport Agency wants a change of designation along State Highway 1 through the Caversham Valley between Lookout Point and Barnes Dr, as it seeks permission to proceed with a second stage of highway upgrades projected to cost between $20 million and $25 million.

DCC senior planner Paul Freeland said 46 submissions had been received, with 41 submissions made in opposition to the NZTA's proposed designation change application.

Three submissions were made in support of the second stage of highway works, while two were neutral, Mr Freeland said.

Twenty submissions were focused on the protection of the peripatus, he said.

Submissions from Costa Rica and Germany wanted the peripatus community and environment to be protected.

"The peripatus is a small velvety caterpillar-like invertebrate, sometimes referred to as the missing link between worms and arthropods," Mr Freeland said.

Submissions from the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird, and a group of "scientists and experts", had also called for measures to be taken to protect the worm's habitate by the highway, he said.

The NZTA is considering three options for changes to the highway and problematic intersection at Lookout Point.

The NZTA's preferred option would be to build an overbridge connecting Mornington and Riselaw Rds across SH1, install a median barrier on a widened four-lane project, and add improved cycling and pedestrian lanes.

However, this option also proposes to convert South Rd into a cul-de-sac - a proposal to which 13 submitters objected.

Another eight submissions opposed the NZTA's proposal on a variety of topics, such as property values, pedestrian access, public transport, and safety, Mr Freeland said.

A DCC planner will consider the submissions as part of a report and recommendation, in anticipation of a public hearing in October, Mr Freeland said.

A proposed overbridge across the Caversham Valley Highway at Lookout Point, connecting Mornington and Riselaw Rds, is the standout feature in the second stage of roading developments, designed to address safety concerns and improve travel efficiency on the southern exit from Dunedin.

NZTA project manager Simon Underwood could not be contacted yesterday evening.

It is understood an "entomological assessment report" is to be commissioned as part of the NZTA's proposal.


Highway upgrade

Submissions received for the proposed second stage of safety improvements be-tween Lookout Point and Barnes Dr. -

For: 3
Neutral: 2
Against: 40

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