Key Points:

Eight species of lizards are to be relocated to a local island as part of a plan designed to improve the health of Whangarei Harbour.

The plan, funded by Marsden Pt port owner Northport Ltd through a 10-year, $500,000 Whangarei Harbour Health Improvement fund, also includes work to restore beds of undersea grass.

Friends of Matakohe/Limestone Island Society intend to transfer eight lizard species to the island off suburban Onerahi in Whangarei Harbour.

Northport's fund is granting $10,660 to cover first-year costs of the three-year lizard relocation project.

Planning for the relocation has been going on for about 10 years and involves sourcing lizards from mainland and island sites before quarantining and testing them for diseases.

The reptiles will then be moved to Matakohe/Limestone Island.

The remaining $50,000 from this year's harbour improvement funding will go to another ongoing project testing the best way to artificially restore seagrass in the harbour.

The Northland Regional Council's Bruce Howse says thriving undersea meadows of seagrass once spread over about 1400ha of Whangarei Harbour before it died off due to sediment pollution which starved the grass of sunlight it needed to survive.

Only small pockets of seagrass remained in the harbour by the 1970s and it is now scarce.

But research in recent years by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) has indicated that, with help, the seagrass might be capable of making a comeback.

Restoring even small areas of seagrass habitat would have a positive impact on the harbour's ecological health because the grass serves as a nursery for juvenile fish and as a home to marine invertebrates, Mr Howse says. It also provides areas for seabirds to forage in.

Northport's harbour health improvement fund was set up as part of resource consent conditions imposed when the company developed its deepwater port at Marsden Pt.