9 Jul 2010

Mahia residents want Moko returned

3:14 pm on 9 July 2010

Wairoa's mayor says Mahia residents want Moko the dolphin returned to what they regard as his turangawaewae.

The carcass of what's believed to be the popular bottlenose dolphin, who made friends with swimmers in Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Bay of Plenty, was found on Matakana Island near Tauranga on Wednesday.

Wairoa mayor Les Probert says the people of Mahia watched over Moko when he arrived at Mahia Peninsula in northern Hawke's Bay in 2007 and during the couple of years he interacted with swimmers at local beaches.

The district council has been flooded with calls, he says, and Mahia residents want him back. Some are suggesting a Moko memorial.

That could boost tourism in the region, says Kristian Lloyd of Northland's Opononi Hotel.

More than 50 years after Opo the famous "friendly dolphin" died at Opononi, Mr Lloyd says, the memorial to him outside the hotel continues to draws many visitors.