New road in $500m development threatens little blue penguins' home
A road to a $500 million development in Wellington's Shelly Bay will slash through a little blue penguin habitat, environmentalists warn.
"If they change the shoreline, they are going to drastically alter what little nesting habitat that is still there," Karin Wiley, from Forest & Bird's Places for Penguins committee, said.
Her cry comes as a former Greater Wellington Regional councillor claims the Wellington City Council acted beyond its powers in granting resource consent to the development – a claim the council vehemently denies.
The development includes 350 new properties, including a 140-resident rest home, a boutique hotel, 280 apartments, 58 townhouses and 14 standalone homes beside Wellington Harbour, and has already been granted non-notified resource consent by the city council.
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Wiley said the Shelly Bay Rd between Miramar and the site would have a "major impact on what few penguins are still there".
There were about 15 known nesting sites on the road south of Shelly Bay.
Department of Conservation rates penguins - correctly called little penguin or korora - as having an at risk-declining conservation status.
Wellington City Council councillor Peter Gilberd, with the natural environment portfolio, was aware of the penguin issue but said is not a "game changer" for the development.
More traffic would mean more chance of penguins getting hit, but engineering solutions – such as tunnels under the road – would need to be investigated.
Joakim Liman is a Wellington zookeeper who works with penguins and founded Miramar ecological restoration project Te Motu Kairangi. He said the road development would mean important nesting grounds would go, while penguin pathways would be lost, leading to more killed on the road.
The road to Shelly Bay currently serves only a handful of homes but development plans will almost-certainly mean road-widening. The current plan is for a 6m-wide road and a 1.5m shared cycleway and footpath.
Murray Stewart, a regular user of Shelly Bay, has launched a petition calling on people to "object to the destruction of this iconic scenic drive".
Developers, Shelly Bay Ltd, will hit a major roadblock if the council does not agree to sell or lease parcels of its land at the site. Public submissions on what to do with that land end on Monday.
Shelly Bay Ltd is owned by Wellington Company director Ian Cassels and the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, which owns 4.5ha of land at the site.
Earl Hope-Pearson, from the Wellington Company, said it was the council looking at road widening and developers would be happy with no widening.
Council spokesman Richard MacLean said mitigation measures such as tunnels or warning signs could be considered but penguins would still be at risk, as they were elsewhere in the area.
"Unfortunately penguins do from time to time get run over by vehicles."
Meanwhile Michael Gibson, a three-term Greater Wellington councillor, has written to the Ombudsman arguing council officers acted beyond their powers by pushing the consent through without public consultation.
"They have given a private company resource consent over our land."
The council said it had worked entirely within its powers in granting resource consent.
Council officers granting the consent had been working under delegated authority of the council.
By Friday morning, the council had about 300 submissions regarding passing the land on to developers.