A proposed $200m bypass road over Taranaki's Mount Messenger could devastate the local population of long-tail bats, DOC warns.
Hearings about the bypass have been taking place since the beginning of the month, The Taranaki Daily News reports, and DOC on Wednesday talked about potential ecological effects.
Dr Colin O'Donnell presented evidence that the bats in the area are already at risk and that construction could severely harm their populations.
"The effects of the project are potentially catastrophic to long tail bats in particular the felling on breeding trees during road construction may lead to the extinction of the Mt Messenger bat population," he said.
Bats are present at 94 per cent of the surveyed locations within the proposed bypass area, Dr O'Donnell said.
"Breeding roost trees are rare with specialised features that tend to be 100 years old and are almost irreplaceable except over very long time frames.
"Adverse affects will occur when trees are destroyed even if the bats are not in them at the time of felling.
"Bats don't just change roost on a whim they follow a traditional routine, that is so strict they often use the same tree, on the same day, each year."
A report by Wildland Consultants Ltd in May held showed there are concerns around whether NZTA can sufficiently offset the ecological effects of the road.
Of the 1190 public submissions received about the bypass, only 20 opposed it.