© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Lyttelton's lizard removal project kicks off

George Clark
The Waitahi gecko Department of Conservation

Gecko from the get-go for Lyttelton Port

Seventy native Canterbury Waitahi geckos are being relocated from Lyttelton to Riccarton in conservation efforts.

Gollans Bay quarry is set to be used as part of the Lyttelton Port Company’s (LPC) new container terminal to keep up with shipping demands.

Department of Conservation ecologists began relocating efforts on Monday with aims to protect the Lyttelton lizards.

“Although Riccarton Bush is different to the habitat from which they will be captured, we expect that they will do just fine – they are hard-wired to use a range of habitats,” Dr Ussher says.

Riccarton Bush was chosen because it has 7.8 hectares of established forest surrounded by a state-of-the-art pest- and mammal-proof fence that keeps out predators such as rats and cats.

Gollans Bay Quarry development
Gollans Bay Quarry Development Department of conservation

DOC’s Community Ranger Rachel Brown says a similar release of geckos was done in 2012 as part of the Sumner Road recovery project.

Small radio transmitters were placed on 19 of the relocated geckos, which showed they were moving around the forest.

All New Zealand geckos are fully protected, meaning they may only be handled under permit. It is illegal to deliberately harm them.

Canterbury Native Gecko 

  • Scientific name: Woodworthia cf. brunnea

  • Common name: Waitaha gecko

  • Bio status category: Indigenous (Endemic)

  • NZ threat classification: Declining


  • Brown, grey or olive with paler bands, blotches or stripes that are usually bright, and large blackish patches (especially on the intact tail).

  • Mouth lining pink, tongue pink with grey tip.

  • Eye greenish, brown or yellow and often very large.

  • Measures 53-80 mm from snout tip to vent.

  • Lifespan can exceed 36 years.