Native lizards salvaged from the Takitimu North Link roading project have been permanently relocated to Mauao, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says.
A team from the project - a Fulton Hogan and HEB joint venture - has completed "search and salvage" work across the eastern section of the expressway project's potential mokomoko (indigenous lizards) sites.
The agency said the focus was to ensure any mokomoko had the best chance of survival while construction of the new highway was under way.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency director of regional relationships David Speirs said this was a "great example" of partnership working for a common goal - to help the mokomoko flourish.
"There has been significant effort to get to this point and it's heartening to know that even during a short time in captivity, the lizards are doing so well."
About 40 indigenous copper skinks have been found at the site so far, along with more than 1000 plague skinks, an invasive Australian pest species that competes for indigenous lizards' habitat and resources.
The copper skinks were temporarily rehomed with an experienced lizard holder in Tauranga while the most suitable release sites were set up for them.
Several young were born, giving the mokomoko a better chance of survival.
The project's environmental manager Stephanie Kirk said: "We know from this work that pest species vastly outnumber the indigenous in this rohe [area], they lay eggs while native copper skinks birth live young, and this means they multiply at a faster rate and take the lion's share of habitat and food."
The team worked with tāngata whenua representatives of Ngā hapū o Te Paerangi, Pirirākau, and supported by the Mauao Trust, Tauranga City Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Department of Conservation and Wildlands.
Fulton Hogan and HEB Joint Venture project director Tony Gallagher said kaitiakitanga (guardianship/protection) had a significant role across the Takitimu North Link project.
This included the protection, restoration and enhancement of habitats for indigenous creatures.
"The team have worked extremely hard during this six-month process. It's been a fantastic example of collaboration and enhancing mauri [life force or essence]."