New mine approved near Westland Petrel colony - 1 News

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Michael Szabo
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New mine approved near Westland Petrel colony - 1 News

Postby Michael Szabo » Tue Apr 30, 2024 10:56 am

The West Coast District Council's decision to approve this new mine ignores the Department of Conservation's objection to it being consented due to its impact on Westland Petrels:

Link to story: https://www.1news.co.nz/2024/04/30/west ... sE-G3V_2C5

1 News are also reporting that local residents now plan to appeal the decision:

Link to story: https://www.1news.co.nz/2024/04/30/gutt ... j-p5NDPiv0
Last edited by Michael Szabo on Wed May 01, 2024 8:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New mine approved near Westland Petrel colony - 1 News

Postby Michael Szabo » Tue Apr 30, 2024 7:42 pm

Westland Petrel guide and Birds New Zealand member Bruce Stuart-Menteath made the following submission at the hearings:

Hearing of submissions into TiGa's proposed ilmenite mine on the Barrytown Flats, just a few kilometres south of the Westland petrel breeding grounds, is well underway. Since the application's first round they've made concessions in favour of the petrels, but they need to go further before we feel confident that the operation will not create a fallout problem, as per the submission reproduced below. Please note that the Westland petrel now ranks 3rd as the most common by-catch species caught by the commercial fishing industry.
Introduction
1. My name is Bruce Stuart-Menteath
2. My wife, Denise Howard, and I live on our property at 3770 Coast Road Barrytown. I am a self-employed natural history interpreter. Since 1987 I have been operating educational tours to a sub-colony of the Westland petrel that I discovered on our property.
3. In 1993 we were co-winners of the New Zealand Eco-Tourism Awards for high achievement in conservation and public education of the natural environment, and in the same year were Highly Commended in the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards for management of the tours we conducted to the Westland petrel colony.
4. I am a founding trustee and Chairman of the Westland Petrel Conservation Trust, established in 2016.
5. I have had thirty-four years’ experience in the management of the sub-colony of Westland Petrel on our property.
6. My work with the Westland petrel has included: locating, and mapping the location, of nesting burrows; identifying burrow occupancy; artificial burrow construction; conducting population census; behavioural studies; identifying landing and launching sites; monitoring for predators and conducting predator/pest control; recovery and relaunch of fallout victims and conducting educational tours.
7. I have been a member of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand for 30 years and during that time have participated in numerous bird surveys.
8. I am familiar with the areas relevant to these proceedings having used the foreshore for recreational purposes on various occasions.
Scope of submission
9. Westland Petrel behaviour whereby it may be affected by artificial lighting arising from the mining operations proposed by TiGa Metals and Minerals Ltd on the Barrytown Flats.
Summary and Evidence
10. The Westland petrel, Procellaria westlandica, belongs to the tube-nosed group of seabirds that includes albatrosses, shearwaters, prions, storm petrels and diving petrels. It is listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and “at risk, naturally uncommon” by the Department of Conservation, NZ threat classification series 4 Conservation of NZ birds. Part of the rationale for this status includes that the breeding grounds for these birds is confined to a small area, in this case to less than 8 square kilometres between the Punakaiki River and Waiwhero Creek.
11. Essentially, in body and wing shape, the Westland petrel looks like a small albatross, with a wingspan of about 1.2 metres. As with albatrosses, Westland petrels have difficulty getting airborne from land unless they have a raised launch site to take off from, often trees, steep slopes or cliff tops. However, unlike albatrosses, Westland petrels will only fly into and out of their breeding grounds during the hours of darkness. If they choose to remain on land during the day, for example a fledgling that has yet to get airborne, they stay quietly inside their nest burrows until nightfall.
12. Westland petrels are superb flyers and can cover vast distances with ease. Aside from flying 10,000 km across the Pacific during their three month non-breeding period, where they are often sighted feeding in the waters off western South America, an adult with a chick to feed can easily travel 2,000 kilometres during one feeding trip, sometimes circumnavigating the South Island in the process. Therefore the 3.6 kilometre distance from breeding grounds to the proposed mining site, is of no significance whatsoever, even for fledglings.
13. There is abundant evidence that Westland petrels are regularly attracted to bright lights on the ground as far from the breeding grounds as Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika. Occasionally they are also picked up some distance inland, such as Runanga, Kumara and near Kokiri on the Stillwater to Moana road.
14. There is no evidence that the Westland petrel has bred elsewhere other than at their present breeding grounds, which today consists of about 30 sub-colonies of various sizes.
15. Before the arrival of humans their total population probably numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but today they have been reduced to a remnant population of 15 – 20,000, with an estimated core breeding population of about 4,000 to 6,000 pairs.
16. The Westland petrel represents a rare example of a seabird dominated ecosystem on the mainland (Wilson K-J 2016), which gives us insight into what was a major wildlife spectacle, the huge colonies of petrels that were abundant throughout New Zealand before the arrival of humans largely eradicated them from the mainland.
17. Westland petrels have evolved to be slow breeders, but with a high survival rate where there is no unnatural mortality. Most young birds first return to the breeding grounds at about 5 to 10 years of age, but it may take several years more before they find a mate and breed successfully for the first time. They lay only one egg per year, although occasionally taking a year off from breeding. Any unnatural mortality can thus quickly result in a significant population decline that may take many years to recover. For example, from my observations it may take several years for a bird whose partner has died to find a new mate and start breeding again. Similarly, it took about ten years for the Waiwhero Creek sub-colony that we manage to recover from a single dog attack in which 12 adults were killed. Research has identified that about 40% of eggs laid do not result in a chick reaching the fledgling stage and only about 50% of the breeding population will attempt to breed in any one year. Thus, whilst they may live for more than 35 years, a breeding pair may only successfully raise half a dozen chicks that would in turn return to breed.
18. There can then be no doubt that the impacts of human presence has caused significant losses to the population, either by direct predation (muttonbirding) or by introducing other mammal predators such as rats, stoats, cats and dogs. The petrels have also suffered from damage caused by timber extraction and farming on the periphery of the breeding grounds; incidental bycatch by the commercial fishing industry, where they rank 10th as the most common bycatch species; damaging weather phenomenon, perhaps intensified by climate change in recent years, notably cyclone Ita, and fallout caused when the petrels become grounded after becoming disoriented by bright lights. Fledglings are particularly vulnerable to fallout during their maiden flight out to sea, which occurs from about mid-November to early January. Fallout is also likely to occur when the petrels strike power lines that cross their flight paths.
19. Fallout caused by artificial lights, such as streetlights and commercial or domestic residences in the Punakaiki area, has been a recognised phenomenon for decades, long before the increased impact of LED lights with a high blue content in the spectrum. The number of birds involved is not known with any certainty due to the lack of any coordinated or consistent recovery plan for finding fallout victims. The Westland Petrel Conservation Trust has recently conducted regular fallout patrols, but most fallout victims are found by chance discovery or when they are squashed on the road. This indicates that the fallout numbers are likely to be much higher than those recorded and over the past 30 years may conservatively amount to the loss of hundreds of birds.
20. However, even if a comprehensive fallout recovery plan was implemented it would be thwarted to some degree by the behaviour of the petrels themselves. This is because after a bird has become grounded, assuming that it is not injured or killed on impact, it will wander off looking for a launch site. At the breeding grounds launch sites are often large leaning trees that enable the birds to climb out above the canopy where the way is clear for them to jump off. However, the likelihood of a fallout victim finding such a launch site in unfamiliar territory would be very slim. If they do not get airborne during the night, they will then sit quietly under cover wherever they can during the day and try again the next night, and the next, and so on until they fall victim to predation or die of starvation.
21. Clearly the DOC fallout records cannot used to determine the extent of Westland petrel fallout. Indeed, the records to date do little more than identify that fallout is occurring and that artificial lighting is the cause.
22. Fallout caused by vehicle lights may also be a possibility as is indicated by the regular recovery of grounded petrels found on the road adjacent to the Nikau Scenic Reserve, which has a major flight path over it, but where there are no fixed artificial light sources.
23. We welcome the applicant’s decision to cease mining and truck movements at night, which should be sufficient to avoid causing fallout problems providing that conditions are specific regarding fixed lighting, the hours of operation and petrel flight times.
24. For example, conditions 16.1 and 16.2 need to be specific as to the type of shielding, colour temperature and intensity of fixed lighting. A light spill of 2 Lux at the boundary for a light source 50 m from that boundary would likely be a very bright light regardless of shielding. To avoid this the condition should specify a colour temperature of no more than 2000 degrees Kelvin. Indeed, it appears that the 2 Lux condition primarily concerns mitigation of effects on humans in a built environment and should not be used as an indicator of effects on petrels.
25. High Pressure Sodium streetlights at Punakaiki contributed to fallout for many years. Therefore, it is likely that condition 16.2 – use of light in the yellow/orange spectrum – will not on its own avoid fallout potential.
26. The use of such words as “minimised”, “lowest intensity lighting possible”, or “as close to the ground as practicable” provide insufficient detail and certainty by which fallout risk may be avoided.
27. At paragraph 143 of Mr Bramley’s evidence, he states that mining will not occur outside daylight hours (as per proposed condition 12). However, condition 12.1 reveals that from 1 February to 30 November mining activities will occur from 0700 to 2200 and trucking activities from 0500 to 2200, both of which include hours of darkness when the petrels will be flying, depending on the time of the year.
28. For example, in early April (the beginning of the breeding season) adult Westland petrels start flying in by 6.50 pm (1850), by mid-June they are flying in by 5.30 pm (1730), 4.5 hours before the 2200 lights out at proposed condition 12, and in late November they are flying in by 9.30 pm (2130), half an hour before the proposed lights out time.
29. In early April the petrels start flying back out to sea at 5.25 am, by 18 June they start flying out at 6.38 am and by mid-August they start flying out at 6.25 am and the final bird has gone by 7.05 am.
30. Clearly, adult flight behaviour and flight times vary as the breeding season progresses. From March to late August, most petrels that are going to come in will do so within the first hour after sunset. Some may fly in half an hour after sunset, which is within civil daylight hours. They may stay on the ground at their burrow for several days, or a week if they are incubating their egg, but most will depart within the last hour of darkness before sunrise. Some late leavers will depart during civil daylight, half an hour before sunrise. A small number of adults will return or depart from the colony at any time of the night.
31. From late August to December most adults that are going to come in will still fly in within the first hour after darkness, however most only stay long enough to feed their chick (15 minutes) and then depart. For this stage of the breeding season there is no mass exodus of adults back out to sea during morning twilight. During November to December fewer and fewer adults return as fledglings reach their full size.
32. The route of the inward flight however may vary considerably. Generally breeding birds gather up at dusk off the Nikau Scenic Reserve, gain height then follow a meandering course to their respective sub-colony. However, on occasion they gather up in large numbers off shore to the south of the mouth of Waiwhero Creek.
33. The outward flight, of both adults and fledglings, generally follows the main valleys of the Punakaiki River, Scotsman Creek, Lyddy’s Creek and Waiwhero Creek and thence straight out to sea.
34. From early November to early December the fledglings become more and more active. By mid-November the most advanced have started to take flight and peak fledging occurs late November/early December. By the end of December there are very few left on the breeding grounds. I suspect that most fallout victims found in January actually fledged in December, but have been grounded for some days. Fledglings have no peak flight time, but get airborne whenever they manage to do so, perhaps aided by windy weather.
35. It would seem appropriate then that to avoid the possibility of fallout all mining and trucking operations be limited to civil daylight hours, half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
36. The Avian Management Plan at 4.3 – Accidental Discovery – also offers scenarios that are unrelated to petrel behaviour.
37. The procedure for dealing with live or dead Westland petrels found within 50 metres of the pit or processing plant (4.3.3), is flawed as it is not based on petrel behaviour. An uninjured bird may walk considerably further than 50 metres from a fallout site, say at the processing plant, but if found 60 metres from the plant a lesser procedure will be implemented other than suspending operations. It should be recognised that fallout anywhere withing the operating area is highly likely to have been caused by unsuitable plant lighting. All operations should then be suspended until the source is identified and remedied. Likewise, the provision that the use of external lights and operations at the pit or processing plant will cease between 4 am and dawn if a second petrel is found within 50 metres of the plant is similarly flawed. For a starter, the procedure is dependent on actually finding the second petrel, which may have been grounded for some days and has been wandering about trying to find a launch site. One fallout victim should provide sufficient alarm that there is a problem and likely that other such victims have not been found because of a lack of search effort, and a black bird is hard to see at night, or because of their habit of hiding up during the day after failing to get airborne again after fallout.
38. Similarly, the provision that, after the discovery of a second fallout victim, “…operations and use of external lights at the pit and processing plant will cease between 4 am and dawn”, fails to recognise that the petrels fly in or out of the breeding grounds at any time during darkness. Nighttime operations and the use of external lighting should cease from the moment of fallout discovery and if the cause cannot be discovered then all nighttime operations should cease permanently.
39. In Dr Bramley’s evidence at paragraph 148 he focuses on Waugh & Wilson (2017) claim that the severity of attraction to lights is low, but he fails to mention their qualification in the same paper that the scope of the problem is “not quantified” and that there is a “…high uncertainty around the numbers of individuals affected.” Indeed, Waugh & Wilson make a strong argument for placing the Westland petrel in a higher risk category due to increasing threats to its survival, which were not considered in a 2017 threat classification review.
40. Thus, the available fallout data is very limited for the purposes of planning, other than to identify that it occurs. All fallout data must be read as the very minimum for planning purposes. Mr Bramley’s use of this data (paragraph 147) to suggest some sort of realistic assessment of losses incurred by fallout, and assumingly therefore as to the fallout impact of the mining operation, is highly unscientific. For example, he identifies that the total juvenile population is unknown and that the total fallout figures are also unknown, and even that data reported by Wilson (2016) contains a significant error, and yet he seems to be suggesting that the fallout numbers may be less than 1% of the population and therefore, presumably, of little consequence.
41. The precautionary principle should apply. In the absence of certainty as to the outcomes of one’s actions, one should proceed on the basis of the worst-case scenario. Therefore it should be assumed that the fallout number is not just an “underestimate,” but is significantly higher than that recorded. Such reasoning should also be applied to the discovery of fallout victims at the mine and processing sites.
42. In recognition of the fallout problem created by streetlights at Punakaiki, in 2020 the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) instructed that all streetlights in the Punakaiki area be turned off for the petrel fledging stage from early November to early January. This was a first for New Zealand and recognition of the Westland petrel as an outstanding wildlife feature that needed special management.
43. The Department of Conservation fallout records reveal an increasing number of cases over the years. This is not likely to be just a result of an increasing population. The 2020-21 season was the highest at 57, nearly double the previous season. Significantly 29 were picked up in Greymouth, 12 more than were recovered at Punakaiki. There is no doubt the petrels have benefitted from the streetlights being turned off at Punakaiki. There may be a number of reasons why 2020-21 was a record year, such as a particularly productive breeding season. However, breeding success at the Waiwhero sub-colony indicates that the previous three years produced consistently about the same number of fledglings. I would suggest that the real reason for the increase in fallout recovery was because of the extensive publicity generated by the fallout mitigation of turning off the streetlights at Punakaiki. Suddenly, members of the public who may have previously not acted when they saw these black seagull looking birds on the road, realised that they were something special and took efforts to recover them. I maintain that this provides further evidence that the fallout problem is much greater than has been recognised to date and should be acted on accordingly by the applicants.
44. Section 3 of the Wildlife Act 1953 specifies that all wildlife are absolutely protected unless otherwise specified.
45. However, the Avian Management Plan (AMP) appears to contravene that Act. At 4.1.2 it states that the possibility remains that tāiko might be grounded by lighting at the processing plant, but that “This risk is considered to be low.” We maintain that such is not the case, that fallout may be much higher than anticipated. Elsewhere, eg at 4.2 and 4.3 it refers to detecting grounded Taiko, which indicates that fallout is expected.
46. This is also inconsistent with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (2010) Policy 11 (a) where such activities are required to “avoid adverse effects of activities on: (i) indigenous taxa that are listed as threatened or at risk in the New Zealand threat classification system”, which includes the Westland petrel. Therefore, the lighting regime at the loading/processing plants and mine pit must “avoid” any fallout, which means that it must be designed in such a way that it will categorically not contribute to fallout. However, the AMP does not demonstrate confidence that this will be the case. It is not appropriate that the AMP be modified when it is found to be lacking, but must be fully compliant with the Coastal Policy Statement from the start.
Conclusion
47. The Avian Management Plan and Grey District Council proposed conditions fail to provide certainty that the mining, processing and trucking operation will not create a fallout problem. In the absence of specific mitigation clauses that address our concerns with regard to these operations, we request that the application be declined.
Bruce Stuart-Menteath
Denise Howard
8 February 2024
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Jan
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Re: New mine approved near Westland Petrel colony - 1 News

Postby Jan » Wed May 01, 2024 11:50 am

I know Bruce and Denise, they used to live near Halswell. He is nothing if not thorough and is desparate to keep this only area of breeding colonies away from harm. This species and Hutton's Shearwater are the only 2 remaining seabirds that ONLY breed on the mainland, nowadays. Our rich farming soils from which early settlers benefited greatly, were formed by birds nesting in burrows and on the surface and depositing phosphorus-rich guano. Now farmers have to import it illegally from the Spanish Sahara.
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Re: New mine approved near Westland Petrel colony - 1 News

Postby Jan » Sun May 19, 2024 11:28 am

Sad news. Bruce Stuart-Menteath has passed away. There may be a notice in The Press.
Hypno
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Re: New mine approved near Westland Petrel colony - 1 News

Postby Hypno » Thu May 23, 2024 5:15 pm

Yes very sad. Condolences to his family
Jan
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Re: New mine approved near Westland Petrel colony - 1 News

Postby Jan » Sat May 25, 2024 1:08 pm

Bruce was a BirdsNZ member in the Canterbury/West Coast Branch and was once the Regional Representative for the West Coast many years ago. A obituary for him is being prepared by people who were close to his work.
Jan
Posts: 1908
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2009 10:43 am
Location: Christchurch

Re: New mine approved near Westland Petrel colony - 1 News

Postby Jan » Sun Jun 02, 2024 12:20 pm

The Westland Petrel Conservation Trust facebook page has an obituary for Bruce posted recently. Sorry I'm not able to put a link here.

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