© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2019

Port may pose risks to endangered dolphins

Arwen Sommer
Hector's Dolphins
Hector's Dolphins swimming in Banks Peninsula Geof Wilson, Flickr.

Construction of a new cruise ship berth at Lyttelton Port has come under scrutiny for posing a threat to endangered Hector's Dolphins.

The berth is being built as part of the Lyttelton Port Recovery Plan, which was approved by the Minister for Earthquake Recovery in 2015.

Genevieve Robinson, campaign manager for #Project20, said the berth was being built with next to no safety or risk research for the resident Hector's Dolphins.  

The noise created by pile driving might cause the dolphins to be dispersed unevenly around the harbour, putting them at risk of being hit by ships and becoming separated from pods, Robinson said.

The current pile driving is being done on land and falls within the regulations of the Lyttelton Port Recovery Plan which means the Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) does not require resource consent.

LPC is preparing a Marine Piling Management Plan to address noise when underwater piling starts in October.

Robinson said that was not good enough. The current piling was on reclaimed land close to the water, which meant the decibel rating was similar to underwater.

LPC said the welfare of Hector's Dolphins was a major priority when considering construction methods for the new cruise berth and redesigned the wharf to minimise underwater noise.