Students build nesting boxes for first on-port penguin sanctuary

29 March 2019

Students at Napier Central School have joined forces with Napier Port to build 24 penguin nesting boxes that will be used in New Zealand’s first on-port penguin sanctuary for the kororā or little blue penguin.

The sanctuary, which will be operational around May this year, will be a protected breeding, monitoring and research centre for around 80 kororā that nest in and around the sea walls at Napier Port.

Napier Port is proposing to build a sixth wharf to handle expected regional cargo growth and ease on-port congestion, if funding can be secured.

The sanctuary is part of a wider Avian Management Plan the port is preparing with mana whenua hapū, the Department of Conservation and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to protect birdlife during construction, if construction of 6 Wharf proceeds.

Qualified penguin handler and Environmental Advisor at Napier Port, Paul Rose says the sanctuary is an inviting, safe place near existing burrows where the penguins can be moved to and monitored throughout the process.

“In anticipation of 6 Wharf construction going ahead, between now and May next year we will begin to carefully deconstruct the rock wall, ensuring we do this before breeding season and when there are the least amount of penguins on-port.

“We need to relocate around eight active burrows located in a 100m section of the wall where the new wharf is proposed to be built,” says Rose.

Speakers playing kororā calls will be placed at the colony’s entrance to try and attract the birds into the sanctuary as they come ashore from feeding in Te Matau-a-Māui, or Hawke Bay, but physical shifting of the birds by trained handlers is also likely.

While the kororā population at the port is healthy, Rose says longer term the port hopes that the sanctuary will help boost the regional population of the kororā, a nationally at-risk species.

“The sanctuary is in a pest-controlled environment, free from predators such as dogs and cats, which are the kororā’s largest land-based threat.

“We’re also using nesting boxes, which have greater breeding success rates than natural burrows, and give easy access to researchers, helping us to understand and protect the kororā better in the future.”

All relocated penguins will be microchipped and nestbox cameras will be installed to provide research data and video activity of the birds.

The preliminary design of the sanctuary has been drafted by kororā expert of 30 years’ Professor John Cockrem from Massey University.

Cockrem will use the sanctuary to research and monitor the population at Napier Port during and after construction of 6 Wharf, if it proceeds.

As well as the boxes currently being built by Napier Central School, another 15 penguin nesting boxes will be built by mana whenua hapū who are kaitiaki of the Napier Port area and another 15 will be made by port staff.

Further information

  • Kororā or little blue penguins are classified as an at risk declining species.
  • The main cause of their decline is predation by dogs. Effective dog control and habitat protection are needed to ensure they survive.
  • They are the smallest penguin in the world at just over 25cm tall and around 1 kg.
  • At the end of 2018, Napier Port secured resource consents to build a new wharf and undertake further dredging to provide the port with an additional 350 metres of wharf space.

Above: Napier Central School students (left to right) Florence Riwai (year 6), Grace Smith (year 6) and Christian Hollbone (year 5) show Principal Ross McLeod, Napier Port Environmental Advisor Paul Rose and Napier Port Environmental & Cultural Advisor Te Kaha Hawaikirangi their finished nesting box.

Above: Napier Central School students (left to right) Florence Riwai (year 6), Grace Smith (year 6) and Christian Hollbone (year 5) with their finished penguin nesting box.

For more information

Breanna Cullen
Communications Advisor

Phone: (06) 833 4685