Waiheke Island marina: Environmentalists and developer at odds over risk to kororā

12:21 pm on 9 June 2021

Environmental campaigners seeking an urgent halt to a Waiheke Island project say there is footage that shows threats to kororā nesting nearby, but the developer rejects that.

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Poster put up by protesters at Kennedy Pt on Waiheke Island. Photo: Rose Davis

A group called Protect Putiki has been occupying the land in opposition to the marina plan on the island.

Auckland Council consented to the project on condition of having a management plan for the kororā (little blue penguin).

However, Forest and Bird last week wrote to the council, asking that the work at Kennedy Point be stopped immediately to protect the at-risk and declining native species.

Forest and Bird Auckland regional manager Lissy Fehnker-Heather told Morning Report images and footage captured by protesters gave a first-hand account of the impact of the construction work on the kororā.

"For example, there's video taken from a drone which shows a large sediment plume from drilling into the seabed in the bay and that's just happening metres away from the rockwall, where the kororā are nesting, and they're currently pair-bonding and mating.

"What once was these crystal blue waters of Putiki bay, it's kind of this brown muddy colour now."

Fehnker-Heather said mussel buoys, installed by the developers, were pushing up against the rockwall too.

"There was a video that actually came out ... where one of the kororā tried to come out from the rockwall and wanted to get past the mussel buoys but couldn't, that was quite a distressing piece of footage to see."

Even having light shining into their nests at night was invasive towards the kororā, she said.

"In general, all the construction activity when you've got these kororā which are at-risk and declining native species [and] are just metres away from it."

Waiheke Local Board chair Cath Handley previously said there were 34 penguin burrows in the rockwall.

However, the developer behind the marina said their construction work was not preventing kororā from swimming out of their nests.

Kennedy Point marina director Kitt Littlejohn told Morning Report they were not stopped from going and coming out of the breakwater.

"There's no immediate concern to the penguin, they're coming and going through the construction and around it quite happily.

"We've got people on-site 24 hours a day, watching them come and go. Our view is that there's no immediate risk to the penguins at all at Kennedy Point."

Littlejohn said they were working on a plan with seabird ecologist Leigh Bull, and it was yet to be presented to the council for final approval.

Dr Bull was shown footage and reports from the site, he said.

A management plan would put in place measures depending on what was happening in the burrows, he said.

"That's really the key point here. The penguins have always been at Kennedy Point, the resource consent was granted knowing that and there is a clear requirement that any penguin in a vulnerable life stage, such as those nesting or moulting, will not have their burrows disturbed and that's the commitment the company has committed to."

Dr Bull was helping come up with a range of measures to determine what state the penguins were in in their burrows, he said.

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