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Under the Radar:


Under the Radar: Lizard Gardens

Otuataua Stonefields Lizard Gardens (Mangere)
Matthew Bradbury, Margaret McKegg, Scott Greenhalgh, Graham Ussher

The Otuataua Stonefields site, an historic reserve, has high lizard numbers because of its extensive remnants of artificial rock formations, the result of both Maori and European clearing of the land for horticulture and agriculture. These are overlaid with diverse vegetation patterns which incorporate fragments of indigenous forest, evidence of Maori cultivation such as kumara and karaka, and the remains of European cultivation, including macrocarpa shelter belts. A methodology was developed to intersect the simple vectors of known lizard population, lizard habitat, and public access connections, especially cycle and walkway corridors.

GIS mapping revealed the presence of a newly constructed coastal walkway and its associated infrastructure, developed under the auspices of Watercare Services. The walkway runs between the stonefields and the coastal reserve. The project connects these artificially separated realms through the identification of landscape 'moments,' adjacencies of topography, pathway and European and Maori stonework that are brought together by active intervention.

Lizard Garden One
Through a process of extending and extruding the historic gardening structures and techniques used by Maori and European occupants at Otuataua, a garden intervention is extrapolated across the Watercare Coastal Walkway, as new terrain is encountered. Where the existing stone walls meet the boundary of the stonefields and walkway, the walls are extended to form lizard connectors into a new lizard garden. This lizard garden is an extruded, formalised habitat structure that moves across the walkway.

The garden is separated from the wetland it bounds by a raking, undulating stone terrace which provides basking habitat for lizards as well as enclosure to the garden. Within the garden space that adjoins the walkway, mounded stone extensions covered in Muehlenbeckia complexa provide vegetative lizard connectors to the basking enclosure wall. The gardening spaces between the connecting stone walls and vegetative mound extensions are planted with the native bindweed found mainly in this area and the almost extinct native cucumber.


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Lizard Garden Two
Where clusters of stone mounds extend across the boundary as it meets the Watercare Coastal Walkway, an extrapolation of gardening techniques historically used in this area etches new forms into the existing terrain. Pits are excavated into the ryegrass-covered knolls to provide thermal enclosures for lizards and garden making. The existing and additional stone mounds become lizard connectors between the stone edges of each pit. The undulating floors of the pits are covered in mulch, bark and old logs to provide additional lizard habitat structure, and rows of fruit trees in the pits shed litter to replenish the floor.