Cardrona has been forced to abandon plans for a chairlift on Pringles Quad after DOC made the decision to not approve the Wildlife Act Authorisation due to native lizards found in the area. The chairlift was meant to be installed in time for winter 2019 but due to this significant setback, Cardrona must find a new site to install one and hopes instead to have another life by Winter 2021.
“Though we are very disappointed we will not be able to install the Pringle’s lift, we support the position DOC has taken to protect these rare and endangered lizards,” said Bridget Legnavsky, Cardrona Alpine Resorts Ltd General Manager. The team had spent the last year and a “significant effort” working with one of New Zealand's leading herpetologists (lizard experts) and DOC to create a plan that would mitigate any potential impact on the lizard species caused by the lift construction.
On Cardrona’s website, Jen Houltham said “We got it to the point where we were confident we were looking after the lizards, and submitted it to the Department of Conservation.” Despite this effort, DOC did not approve the application, with Houltham saying that “we're a bit gutted” at the news. Pringle’s Quad is home to some of the nation’s rarest lizards, including the nationally vulnerable Orange-spotted gecko and Lakes skink species.
DOC’s southern South Island operations director, Aaron Fleming, said “DOC commends the resort for their cooperation to ensure this wildlife refuge is protected.” Cardrona was not legally bound to stop the chairlift as a result of the declined application, but according to Fleming “continuing with the construction without the Wildlife Act authorisation could have been an offence under the Wildlife Act if this work caused the death of protected wildlife.”
He went on to note that “Constructing a chairlift involves destroying rocky outcrops inhabited by lizards and squashing other lizard habitat with heavy machinery, and it is very likely that lizards would be killed at the same time.” Both DOC and Cardrona will continue to work together to determine how they can change their existing chairlift plans to ensure the area’s biodiversity is well protected.