Conservation land and marine life
Access to walking and tramping tracks was affected by the earthquakes, and huts, tracks and facilities damaged. The key focus for the Department of Conservation (DOC) has been assessing the earthquake impacts on the environment and wildlife, making conservation areas safe and accessible, and advising NCTIR on appropriate methods for managing the road reconstruction work with the least impact on wildlife and habitat.
Conservation land was made available as staging sites for road restoration work, and DOC campsite facilities were used to house workers. Longer term plans include opportunities for coastal restoration and enhancing visitor facilities.
Wildlife and habitat were affected with approximately 25% of the Hutton’s Shearwater population and around 95% of the Ohau Point Daisy population wiped out by slips. NCTIR helped gather Ohau Point Daisy seeds from the cliffs to propagate for re-planting. Ongoing support for the Hutton’s Shearwater population will continue with the Kaikōura Peninsula colony a key site for future population security.
The marine environment
DOC marine mammal experts report that New Zealand fur seals (kekeno) have been remarkably resilient to the impacts of the earthquakes. The seal habitat between, and on either side of the slips, remains mostly intact. The sections where the slips occurred have significantly altered the shore below; however, the seabed uplift created significant new areas for the seals to occupy. Seals are colonising new territory to the north and south of the slip at Ohau Point. It is likely seals will continue to redistribute themselves in response to the earthquake and road works. DOC is working closely with NCTIR to ensure the road reconstruction has the least possible impact on the seal population.
The sudden change to the coastal environment resulted in destruction of most animals and plants in the intertidal and subtidal zones. These areas will recover naturally with time.