Light pollution from a mine proposed near the only breeding site for New Zealand's Westland Petrel could impact the species. A Westland Petrel fledgling; photograph by Bruce Stuart-Menteath
There is concern New Zealand’s Endangered Westland Petrels Procellaria westlandica are under threat from a proposed mine near the species’ sole breeding site in the foothills of the Paparoa Mountains on the West Coast of the South Island.
A planning application for a mineral sand mine operation located less than 5km south of the breeding colony has been lodged by mining company, TiGa Minerals and Metals. Artificial light emitted from the mine’s infrastructure, and the headlights from the increased traffic movements to and from the mine could impact the Westland Petrel colony.
Light pollution presents a threat for many birds, particularly migratory species. For shearwaters and petrels, exposure to artificial lights from street, vehicle and building lights, can lead to birds becoming grounded. Once grounded, they can find it difficult to become airborne again putting them at risk of vehicle strikes, predation or exhaustion. Fledglings are particularly vulnerable to light pollution when they leave their breeding site and fly out to sea for the first time.
A fledgling Westland Petrel being released after being found grounded near Punakaiki; photograph courtesy of the Westland Petrel Conservation Trust
The West Coast Branch of the conservation organisation, Forest & Bird, and local community members are campaigning against the mine, forming the Coast Road Resilience Group to raise awareness of the mine’s potential impacts on the Westland Petrel colony.
An application for a mine at the same site made under TiGa Minerals and Metals’ previous name, Barrytown JV Limited, was rejected in 2022 with the impacts of light pollution on the colony cited as one of the reasons behind the decision.
In response to an article about the proposed mine by Forest & Bird, TiGa Minerals and Metals’ have stated through a press release that they believe they have taken considerable steps to address the impacts of the mine on the Westland Petrel colony.
TiGa managing Director Robert Brand said: “TiGa has gone way further than any existing business within the flight path zone of these birds. For instance, we have volunteered to restrict our ore truck movements past the petrel colony, near Punakaiki, to daylight hours only. Additionally, our mining operation will adhere to the Australian National Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife, which Forest & Bird itself has cited as the desired standard for New Zealand.”
The Barrytown Mineral Sanding Mining application for resource consents has been publicly notified however submissions are now closed. The application can be accessed at www.wcrc.govt.nz within the current notified applications or www.greydc.govt.nz.
27 October 2023