The team constructing the Waikato Expressway learn about the environment around the highway. Then they take steps to protect native bats and fish, and plant more trees.
About 365,000 plants were planted along the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway. This helps to compensate for trees that were removed during construction.
Trees planted include oak, horse chestnut, poplar and native species Kahikatea and Totara.
The new trees will provide shelter and food for long-tailed bats. Fast growing poplar and slower growing oak trees planted in the Karapiro Gully will eventually provide homes for the bats, where they can sleep and breed. Native trees attract the insects that bats feed on.
The following story features scientist Simon Cathcart as he explains how his team searched for bats before removing trees along the expressway route.
Bats are small, fast, nocturnal and difficult to detect.
Ecologists went to look for wildlife before work began on the Rangiriri section of the Waikato Expressway. They found a large population of black mudfish. This species is at risk due to the loss of its home as the wetlands of the Waikato were drained over the years.
It’s a curious animal. Black mudfish can survive out of water, sometimes for several months. They keep moist by burrowing into mud or leaf litter until they can return to water.
In this case, the black mudfish were moved to specialised tanks at the University of Waikato while their habitat was made bigger. The team added native plants and a winding stream channel, plus shallower wetland areas. The fish are now back home.