Penguin Precinct for Port Tarakohe?
19 July 2019 - Little blue penguin precinct sought for Port Tarakohe. Port could become a penguin eco-tourism attraction. Article by Cherie Sivignon published on Stuff.co.nz.
Port Tarakohe in Golden Bay could become a little blue penguin eco-tourism attraction, says penguin expert Professor John Cockrem.
A Massey University professor, Cockrem this week enjoyed his first visit to Port Tarakohe, which has long been a home for the world's smallest penguin, known officially as little penguins or kororā.
"The Port Tarakohe site is the best artificial habitat for little penguins that I have seen in New Zealand and I've been to many penguin places around the North and South islands," Cockrem said.
With a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of the Tasman District Council-owned port planned, there was a "huge opportunity" for the creation of an environment precinct at the site. It could become an eco-tourism attraction for Golden Bay, Cockrem said.
There were examples around New Zealand of such eco-tourism operations including the successful Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.
"That colony has grown as a tourist attraction," Cockrem said, adding that it supported a fulltime penguin scientist.
Blue Penguins Pukekura was another colony that could be visited along the Otago Peninsula as well as Pohatu Penguins, near Akaroa. "Again, an eco-tourism operation and money comes in to support the conservation action."
Along the western side of Port Tarakohe, dozens of nesting boxes set into the ground many years ago had a high occupancy rate. "Then you've got the flax and taupata, providing shade, and then this relatively flat area where the birds can come out," Cockrem said. "The adults can socialise – they can display and find mates."
"In order to realise this, you would need to change the situation so this became a dedicated bird and environment area, which would mean the people who now come here to go fishing would need to be redirected."
The draft business case included a proposal to extend the breakwater on the eastern side of the harbour, near the commercial area. "People could go ocean fishing here," Cockrem said. "They could build little fishing platforms for kids and deliberately create an opportunity for fishing as part of the whole package."
On the western side, a ramp could be built for the penguins so people could see them coming ashore. An education centre could also be a focal point for visitors including school children.
"But it will require, for the safety of the birds and the studies, that this would no longer be random public access."
Cockrem gave two public talks in Takaka on the biology and conservation of little blue penguins, which drew about 80 people. He also spoke to Tasman District Council staff about the idea of an environment precinct. Members of the newly created Mohua Blue Penguin Trust backed the precinct proposal. Trustee Ron Eckman encouraged penguin lovers to promote the idea in the comments section of the submission form for the draft business plan.
Submissions on the draft plan are due to close on September 30 with a hearing scheduled to be held at Takaka on August 7.
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