New Zealand’s distinctive herpetofauna
The discipline of herpetology in New Zealand includes lizards, frogs, tuatara, sea turtles, sea snakes, and in rare instances involves the capture of stowaway snakes and turtles/tortoises from other parts of the world. New Zealand rivals temperate Australia in terms of lizard biodiversity, and our herpetofauna have many ancient traits that make them unique internationally; e.g. all New Zealand geckos give birth to live young (usually twins) every 1-2 years.
There are currently c.100 species of lizards recognised for New Zealand, one species of tuatara and three species of native frogs. New Zealand also has three species of sea snakes and five species of turtles in our seas; these species frequently turn up on northern beaches.
New Zealand lizards are threatened by habitat modification and destruction, predators, and in some cases poaching. Large-bodied lizards tend to be most threatened as they tend to be longer-lived, have fewer young, and require more specific habitat to avoid predation than smaller-bodied species. All New Zealand herpetofauna are assigned a threat ranking by the Department of Conservation every 3-4 years (most recently in 2015). There are now 37 species of “Threatened” herpetofauna in New Zealand including eight “Nationally Critical” species. There are 52 “At Risk”, seven “Data Deficient”, and 10 “Not Threatened” species. Over 80% of Threatened and At Risk species have at least one record on private land, and some occur exclusively on private land.
Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE)
Lizards must be considered in scoping reports and in AEEs in order to achieve an “adequate” assessment of environmental effects (as per Section 88, clause 3 of the Resource Management Act 1991).
Wildlife Act 1953
All New Zealand lizards, frogs and tuatara and all vagrant and migrant species of sea snakes and sea turtles are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act 1953, and consequently:
- A Wildlife Act Authority from Department of Conservation (DOC) is required to undertake activities within New Zealand herpetofauna habitat that may result in a significant impact on a species or habitat
- A handling permit from DOC is required for handling and/or disturbance to any New Zealand herpetofauna
The Wildlands herpetological team
Wildland Consultants consistently delivers high quality and cost-effective services, the hallmark of which is a creative and pragmatic approach to problem solving under the RMA (1991).
The Wildlands herpetological team includes experienced RMA practitioners and highly respected scientists. Team members are well versed in the resource consent process, including significance assessments, mitigation plans, the preparation of environment court expert evidence, and in the design, analysis and publication of scientific field experiments. Team members have experience in all aspects of project management and reporting, including the formulation of strategic and restoration plans.
All team members have a proven track record in using up-to-date methodology to find rare and cryptic species. The Wildlands herpetological team have DOC Wildlife (handling) permits for both public and private land, which enables a quick response for lizard survey, lizard identification, and assessment of environmental effects.
Wildland Consultants actively support professional development and consequently we remain at the fore-front of innovation in environmental planning and herpetological methodology. Wildlands has a DOC certified gecko-sniffer dog, and a MAF accredited venomous snake-handler to tackle border incursions.
Wildlands staff are represented on the DOC Lizard technical advisory group and the Native frog recovery group, and are members of NZFrog research group, Society of Reptile and Amphibian Research in New Zealand, and Ecological Society of New Zealand.