Will road harm harbour life?

Save The Otago Peninsula spokeswoman Lala Frazer inspects culverts at Macandrew Bay, beside...
Save The Otago Peninsula spokeswoman Lala Frazer inspects culverts at Macandrew Bay, beside recent cycleway widening work. She says many drainage channels are placed higher than this one, making it very hard or impossible for fish to return upstream to spawn. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
Cycle paths, footpaths and wider roads are making life easier for peninsula residents, but are these projects coming at the expense of birdlife and important fish species? Dan Hutchinson takes a look.

Save The Otago Peninsula (Stop) is worried wildlife could be affected by road-widening and safety improvements.

The $27 million Portobello Rd and Harington Point Rd Improvements project aims to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists between Vauxhall and Harington Point.

Stop spokeswoman Lala Frazer said extending the road into the harbour would destroy another 7ha of intertidal zones along a 14km stretch.

She believed more should be done to ensure fish could migrate up streams to spawn because drainage pipes under the road would, in some areas, make that difficult or impossible.

Council Transport Group project engineer Evan Matheson said they would be aiming to ''mimic'' the ecological conditions that already existed.

Detailed design work would involve further consultation with organisations such as Fish and Game to ensure they were using the best techniques. He said the commissioners were also likely to specify strict environmental conditions on the project.

An assessment of environmental effects commissioned by the council stated there would be little lasting damage to the ecology of the area.

Otago Regional Council-appointed commissioners are due to release their decision on the 10 resource consents the city council had applied for in about a week.

Dr Ryder said care would need to be taken to avoid zostera seagrass beds, which were not common and provided nursery grounds for a wide variety of intertidal invertebrates and fish and feeding areas for birds and fish.

Dr Ryder summarised his concerns into three main areas: loss of intertidal habitat that is considered significant because it is scarce within Otago Harbour; complete loss of intertidal zone due to the narrowness of the existing intertidal zone; and loss of ecologically significant habitat.

However, he said other reclamation work had had a ''negligible'' effect on the ecology. It was ''unlikely that there will be lasting adverse ecological effects from the proposed widening along the Portobello and Harington Point roads''.

Peninsula Community Board chairwoman Christine Garey said the the road widening ''has to go ahead''.

''We cannot achieve the safety benefits any other way. It is about what we do to mitigate any environmental effects.''

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