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Prime real estate . . . Waitaki District Council project and assets officer Grant Rhodes says the new lizard habitat will be finished off with exotic grasses. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

A small population of protected lizards will enjoy beachfront views when they are transferred to a new habitat.

The Waitaki District Council is preparing a new lizard habitat in anticipation of rock revetment work scheduled to take place next year around the Oamaru Harbour.

When applying for resource consent for the project, the council consulted LizardExpertNZ owner and herpetologist Mandy Tocher who identified at-risk declining Southern grass skinks and McCann’s skinks on a thin 60m strip of land between the harbour’s rock armouring and the footpath on the Esplanade.

Once their presence was identified, the council included a lizard management plan in its consent application, which stipulated the lizards would be transferred to a new permanent location before any work could be completed.

Council project and assets officer Grant Rhodes said the lizards had not delayed the revetment work.

Instead, the council had used its annual $30,000 budget on more urgent revetment maintenance.

The habitat preparation started two weeks ago , and would be completed with exotic grasses and poison-less predator traps, Mr Rhodes said.

Five at-risk declining Southern grass skink and 20 to 25 McCann’s skink were expected to be found during the transfer, Mr Rhodes said.

The habitat will be in a closed-off area between the Harbourside Gardens and beach, where a penguin nesting area had already been established.

Before the transfer could go ahead, the council needed the approval of Dr Tocher and a Wildlife Act permit from the Department of Conservation.