Nesting penguins put a halt to Urenui seawall construction

Where the wall stops at Urenui beach the erosion begins.
CHARLOTTE CURD/Fairfax NZ

Where the wall stops at Urenui beach the erosion begins.

Penguin conservation is getting in the way of bach protection at a popular summer holiday spot. 

Urenui Beach is visibly eroding and last month the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) forked out $100,000 to complete the half-finished seawall built to slow the erosion process.

However, penguins have begun nesting underneath baches near where construction was due to begin last week, forcing a halt to the work on the remaining 140 metres until the council can reach a solution with the Department of Conservation.

300 metres of the wall was completed in 2001 but for 15 years it was left unfinished.
Bradley Ambrose

300 metres of the wall was completed in 2001 but for 15 years it was left unfinished.

Urenui resident Murray Wells has been fighting to have the seawall finished for years and said it needed to be done by Christmas before holiday-makers flocked to the small town. 

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"They're not actually anywhere near where the construction will happen, but I guess you can't be too careful," he said. 

Urenui beach is just one section of Taranaki's coastline that is slowly being eroded.
CHARLOTTE CURD/FAIRFAX

Urenui beach is just one section of Taranaki's coastline that is slowly being eroded.

"They prefer to hop up the rocks of the already built portion of the seawall."

Wells said the penguins were a staple of Urenui and came every year to nest under the baches nearest the beach, but construction could not continue while they were nearby. 

NPDC infrastructure manager David Langford said a meeting with DOC was set up next week to discuss whether working around the penguins was an option. 

Nesting season for blue penguins typically ends in February.
Fairfax NZ

Nesting season for blue penguins typically ends in February.

"If we can't work around them then construction could be delayed until February when the nesting season ends," he said. 

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"We have a responsibility to protect the penguins so if we're going to disturb them we can't work."

Langford said work on the seawall was due to begin a week ago but the council was told about the penguins by the Ngamotu Marine Reserve Society. 

"We had a meeting with the society and it was brought to our attention that they had seen signs of penguins," he said. 

"We would have started working already if the penguins hadn't been found."

Ngamotu Marine Reserve Society chair Anne Scott said the society kept data on wild life all around Taranaki's coast. 

"The council sometimes contacts us when there's work to be done on the coast," she said. 

"In this case they have got in touch and asked whether we knew about any penguin activity."

Scott said she was sure the council and the penguins could reach a harmonious solution.

"When they are nesting they are very vulnerable and there are chicks in those nests already," she said. 

The Taranaki Regional Council issued consent to the NPDC for construction of the wall and part of the consent was to not impact on penguin breeding areas. 

Council director of resource management Fred McLay said in the event penguins were found in the immediate vicinity of any construction then work would have to cease immediately.

"NPDC has notified the council that penguins have been found in the area and that work has ceased," he said 

"When NPDC has advised the council of their mitigation plans work can commence."

 - Stuff

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