Reducing environmental impact
Environmental impacts are major across landscape, ecosystem, rivers and coastal environments. Many of the impacts are long term and will take decades to manifest. This sector focuses on managing the impacts of recovery.
DOC staff undertook initial helicopter checks of over 170 key tracks and facilities across North Canterbury and South Marlborough in the days following the earthquake. Most of these tracks and facilities were unaffected, but some close to the epicentre suffered badly. Two huts in the Kaikōura backcountry had been swept away by landslides, and other huts were damaged and tracks blocked. Landslides also blocked access to iconic locations such as Isolated Hill and Sawcut Gorge in South Marlborough, which still remain closed.
The Molesworth was initially closed with both the Acheron Road and Rainbow Road blocked with slips. Acheron House and Quail Flat historic cob buildings suffered significant damage and Clarence Bunkhouse, which is critical to farm operations, was also destroyed.
Following assessment, the initial focus was on restoring access to front country sites and getting the roads through Molesworth open. Over the year, damage to several tracks, huts and other structures has been repaired, enabling them to reopen. However, some conservation areas remain closed and some tracks and structures are still to be repaired.
The St Arnaud area, which is on the alternate SH1 route, has seen significant increases in numbers of vehicles using the road, and taking short stops at St Arnaud, Maruia Falls and Murchison. NZTA, DOC and Tasman District Council provided increased facilities for travellers, including parking areas for long haul trucks to pull off and park, upgrades to one-way bridges and toilets and camping sites.
The greater Kaikōura area is a special part of New Zealand. (Note DOC areas in Hurunui weren’t affected by the earthquake). NZTA, KiwiRail and NCTIR are committed to minimising their impact on the environment and work closely with the Department of Conservation (DOC), iwi and Heritage New Zealand. Environmental and cultural specialists monitor work sites to ensure the environment and wildlife are protected while NCTIR carries out its essential work.
NCTIR has moved native freshwater fish, fur seals, and a rare flower – the Ohau rock daisy found only at Ohau Point on the Kaikōura coast - to protect these while work is undertaken. An estimated 95% of the Ohau Point rock daisies were destroyed by the earthquake’s landslides – nearly wiping out the species. With an estimated only 80-100 plants remaining, NCTIR’s ecologists and abseillers worked with DOC to locate six plants on the bluff to harvest seeds. More than 200 seedlings were able to be propagated in a nursery in Nelson, which will help replenish the small population.
An independent marine scientist works with NCTIR to help mitigate the impact of the work on seals and other wildlife in the area. This challenging work requires creative solutions. One successful initiative was seal-proof fencing and on–site seal herding, keeping seals and their pups away from falling rocks and materials from helicopters sluicing and the clearance of a 20,000 cubic metre slip 300m north of Ohau Point.