Shepherding a flock

JAMES IRELAND
Last updated 11:42 06/12/2012
STILT
CRAIG MCKENZIE

IN DANGER: The home of the pied stilt in Te Atatu will soon be a construction depot which will force them to move. 

STILT
JAMES IRELAND
EMPTY NEST: Forest and Bird’s Michael Coote is worried about the effects of NZTA turning a roosting area for shorebirds into a construction depot.

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The breeding ground of some of New Zealand's most endangered shorebirds will be moved when construction of the Causeway Upgrade Project on the northwestern motorway hits Te Atatu.

Part of the Te Atatu Pony Club will be used as a construction depot by NZ Transport Agency from early next year until 2017.

Hundreds of shorebirds, including New Zealand dotterels of which there are only 1100 left, roost on the pony club grounds every day waiting for low tide so they can feed in the mud flats.

Forest and Bird's Michael Coote is concerned about what will happen to them with more human activity in the area and less roosting space.

"The birds stay inside the fences which we think is because the park that borders the club is where a lot of people take their dogs," he says.

"We really don't know what will happen when the land gets taken over, the changes to the birds may be very small but we will be monitoring it very closely.

"It may be things like them not eating as much or becoming stressed.

"Every year we do a bird count and hopefully if there are any changes they will show up then," he says.

NZTA's acting state highways manager Steve Mutton says consent conditions require the organisation to monitor high tide roosting areas.

"This will be undertaken monthly, and will be supported by a report every quarter. If any issues arise about the roosting areas, the project team will involve Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation," he says.

"Trials have been held on the section of the Northwestern Motorway that passes through the Motu Manawa-Pollen Island Marine Reserve to gather data to ensure that there is as little impact on the marine reserve as possible when the upgrade project begins," he says.

Mr Coote says staff have been developing proposals for installing viewing platforms along the State Highway 16 cycleway.

"Hopefully after the construction is finished we can make some improvements and create a space that can be used for education so the whole community can enjoy these birds," he says.

Improvements to the Te Atatu interchange will cost $100 million and will enlarge the on/off ramps, add an additional lane in each direction, widen Te Atatu Rd bridge and lower the level of the motorway.

Pony club president Lisa Aspin says NZTA is taking over five hectares of the 13 hectare site.

"But they will be sorting us out some new paddocks on empty land right next to where we are now," she says.

"They are going to fence it and drain it because it is quite boggy.

"We have one more event this month using the land and we were going to have another event in January which we probably wont be able to have.

"We expect to be in the new grounds by March."

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