little blue penguins

PHOTO: Kororā or little blue penguins, have been stopped from getting to nesting sites at Shelly Bay. FILE

Photos have emerged of fences blocking penguins from Shelly Bay – the site developer Ian Cassels bought under the condition he looked after the kororā that nested there.

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Cassels has long planned a $500 million development at the former Air Force base at Shelly Bay, on the western fringe of the Miramar peninsula, but it has been mired in controversy and litigation for years.

One of his final hurdles was eventually crossed when the Wellington City Council voted to sell and lease its land there to him.

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One of the key commercial terms was that, “the developer will be responsible for rehousing the little blue penguins that are located on council land at Shelly Bay”.

Council spokesman Richard Maclean said the council would be talking to “interested parties” this week, “but taking note that one of the main aims of the temporary fencing is to keep the kororā from moving about or nesting in what is now a construction zone with clear risks to wildlife”.

The developer was working with iwi and the Department of Conservation to ensure the penguins were able to reach nesting sites.

Charlotte Daniels, who came across the three penguins on Saturday evening, shooed them towards the sea because she was afraid they would be hit by a car. “You could tell they wanted to be on the other side [of the fence],” she said.

Fences at Shelly Bay, where a $500 million development is underway, are stopping penguins but a new nesting site has been set up.

Fences at Shelly Bay, where a $500 million development is underway, are stopping penguins but a new nesting site has been set up. Photo: Kevin Stent / Stuff

But Dan Henry, of Predator Free Miramar, said almost the whole northern bay at Shelly Bay had a skirt installed along the fences that made them “impregnable” to penguins. “It is clearly there to keep penguins out and to mitigate the risk to penguins when they are [doing construction work],” he said.

There was a 5m gap in the skirt, leading to a 5m-by-5m fenced area with four penguin nesting boxes. But these were boxes the penguins hadn’t used before, where they were “cheek by jowl” with other penguins, and it was evident the penguins hadn’t discovered the gap in the fence.

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Locals came across penguins seemingly trying to get past the fences about 8pm on Saturday and posted photos on social media.

“The best they could do was try and usher the kororā back to the water,” said Kenny-Jean Sidwell, an artist who used to work at Shelly Bay. Her son’s friend took the photos of the penguins about 8pm on Saturday.

Henry alerted Mayor Andy Foster, Deputy Mayor Sarah Free, and local councillor Teri O’Neill to the fences.

A kororā, or little blue penguin, on Shelly Bay Rd on Saturday night.

A kororā, or little blue penguin, on Shelly Bay Rd on Saturday night. Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Foster said he had talked to Places for Penguins, which runs penguin protection programmes, and was told the intention of the nesting boxes was right but they needed to be across the road by the sea. The group was working with Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust – the iwi arm of the development – to find a solution as soon as possible, he said.

Free confirmed there was a clause that Cassels had to look after the penguins. “We need to act quickly on this, obviously.”

O’Neill on Sunday said a tikanga expert had been working with Cassels’ The Wellington Company and Taranaki Whānui, the group doing the development with Cassels, on finding a solution for the penguins.

Cassels has been approached for comment.