Graduate Water Environmental 3

2 October 2018 Kate Palmer

WSP Opus is a leading New Zealand environmental consultancy. Environmental management is about managing natural assets well.  Considering the environmental and cultural impacts and risks is an important part of all major infrastructure and asset management projects in New Zealand. 

We work with a wide variety of clients large and small to solve environmental challenges in ways that are appropriate and affordable. Our job is to work alongside our clients to help them identify their current and future needs so we can deliver technical, sustainable and economically sound solutions. 

This work, which is often carried out behind the scenes of large infrastructure projects, includes caring for native and endemic species to ensure they are protected from the impacts of construction.  

For Paddy Deegan, WSP Opus Environmental Scientist says he’s had the opportunity to work on a huge range of ecological projects across the North Island.  

“I’ve worked in many different environments and worked with a diverse range of our native biodiversity, including lizards, bats, birds, and fish. Every now and then you pick up a job that provides you with huge satisfaction, typically for me, this includes discovering the habitat of a certain species within the extent of a project and then working with a client to help to provide protection for that species. 

His standout was the discovery of an unidentified population of black mudfish in the Waikato on a routine fish recovery job, that led to the protection and enhancement of the habitat for that population.  

Here are a few examples of the type of work WSP Opus environmental staff carry out.  

Looking after the eels 

WSP Opus kokapu 1The Northern Corridor project will provide better links for Northern Motorway travellers in Auckland, and improve transport options on the North Shore for freight, cars, pedestrians and cyclists. It includes a new motorway connection between SH1 and SH18, opening up access to the Western Ring Route and airport.

For all the considerable benefits the project will deliver, it has required a change of location for a population of shortfin eel.  

During specialist ecological studies conducted during the project consent process, it was found that the shortfin eel (Anguilla australis) was present within a stream running through the project area 

To protect them it was decided to move them prior to construction. Over two days 22 eels were identified with an Electric Fishing Machine, captured and released downstream of the construction zone, into a tributary of the Oteha Stream.  

An innovative use of vegemite

Vegemite WSP OPus Stock ImageSimilarly, during the construction of Christchurch’s Shag Rock Cycleway in 2016, the native eels and whitebait were rescued from the Linwood Canal to ensure their survival.  

The cycleway project required the creation of a cofferdam, an enclosure built in the water to create a dry work environment for construction. This meant removing the resident fish population and relocating them.  

To do this, the team used a variety of methods including deploying nets baited with vegemite, electric fishing and, finally, capturing in nets as the water was drained. All fish were tagged before being released back into the wild.  

Cycling alongside copper skinks

CopperSkink Source WikipediaWhen WSP Opus worked on the Western Rail Trail in Hamilton it needed to cater for a number of users. The 2.7km shared path follows the rail line through Frankton and connects Hamilton’s south-western suburbs to the central city.  

Key to the project was the delivery of a democratically accessible trail that caters for all users, including visually impaired and wheelchair-bound users. 

The WSP Opus team designed a trail that would not only provide an attractive and safe cycling route but also revive and improve the land and surrounding environment.  

Our design creates a story that draws on the history of the railway and the wider Frankton area using art features including topiary bikes, interpretive display panels, themed wayfinding signs, and functional art. 

During construction, contaminated material was removed offsite and the soil quality improved using high organic carbon content material and by introducing plants and vegetation. Rather than removing excess gravel material, we used this to build up the existing KiwiRail service track located adjacent to the trail. 

Due to the presence of endemic copper skinks in the area, we included skink habitats in our design.  

We captured 15 skinks before construction and kept them in captivity until they could be released into their new habitat.


WSP Opus has led the way in environmental services in New Zealand for decades, with a proven track record for clever solutions for urban, rural and natural environments. View our environmental projects