A farming family in Banks Peninsula is playing its part in protecting the largest little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand.
Sheep and beef farmers Shireen and Francis Helps have been carrying out predator control and rehabilitation to help the now two-thousand-strong colony of white-flippered penguins thrive on their Flea Bay home.
White-flippered penguins are endemic only to Canterbury and are a variant of the Australasian kororā little penguin.
The farming pair ran an eco-tourism business called Pōhatu Tours, which involved taking tourists from Akaroa out on 4WD trucks off to the Peninsula's wild side to see the colony.
Co-founder Shireen Helps said they had been trapping predators, fencing and rehabilitating the kororā colony on their farm for decades - but the fight was not over.
"We're keeping the predators out of the colonies," Helps said.
"We got on top of the ferrets years and years ago, so actually we haven't seen a ferret in the bay for a very long time.
"We do have an ongoing problem with stoats. They're very hard to catch. Very cunning little blighters."
Helps said the colony spread into neighbouring properties, which includes Department of Conservation and QEII convenant land, and was grazed by their 800 breeding ewes and 20 cattle.
"Of course, we graze that, because the worst enemy for penguins is long grass and dense vegetation. The predators go mad in it, and that causes problems for the rats and mice. Predators come in after them, and that's when you start to lose birds."
Other threats to the penguins were extreme heat and severe weather events - and they had had their share of both, she said.
The area had been a hub of restorative and reconstruction work over the past few years after severe floods smashed the Peninsula, especially in rural areas, in December 2021 - damaging properties, roads, and destroying kilometres of critical conservation fencing designed to keep predators out.
It caused landslips down the back of the Helps' property towards the colony's habitat.
"The fences were munted ... The team was running around in the rain rescuing penguins out of the boxes and burrows as the hill started to fall down and the creek came up," she said.
"The penguin boxes were just going out to sea so we ended up with 30 chicks in the kitchen here in cages.
"Plus the sheep in the house, too."
Environment Canterbury allocated $132,000 over two years towards re-instating fencing across the region, covering around 6 kilometres of fencing and 25 floodgate repairs.
Helps said was a godsend for the Peninsula, in addition to endless generosity of local businesses, their guides and volunteers to continue their conservation work.
ECan's zone delivery lead for Banks Peninsula and Selwyn/Waihora, Gill Jenkins, said the post-flood recovery of biodiversity, enhancement of water quality and mahinga kai values were key priorities for the zone.
"Providing assistance to protect some of the areas that are so important to biodiversity on the Peninsula was one way we could help when the community needed it," she said.