A big thank you to Peter Brailsford’s conservation class at Westland High School for the new nest boxes and time spent designing and engineering penguin ramps to help solve the access problem last season at Hokitika Beach for our penguins.

We saw a 10 foot wall erosion issue, even bigger than in previous years, and although up to 50 tracks were often counted going to and from the sea each morning, many were seen walking hundreds of metres along the foot of the erosion cliff trying to find an access point up into the dunes and their nests.

Many hours have spent by local people, the Trust team and Westland Milk Factory volunteers digging ramps for access, but it was a very time consuming and difficult challenge.

The debate is whether the penguins in this local area are used to the erosion issue by now and so will adapt and go elsewhere to breed or to just walk the long distances to get to their nests each day, in which case ramps may not be needed, or whether we will lose these penguins from this area or breeding may be disrupted, perhaps eggs abandoned, and so ramps will keep them here and support successful breeding, but also keep them more protected from threats such as dogs by not having to walk so far along the beach for nest access, out in the open.

Peter Brailsford and his class decided that perhaps they could come up with a design of ramp where the penguins could access their nests each day.

We put the new ramp out on the beach as a trial run, with a camera to record the usage, however with much technology issues with the camera, we didn’t get a confirmed answer as to whether the ramp needed altering or not. Next season we will try again.

A big thank you to the students for their time and energy. But particularly to Peter, who turned up on a Sunday afternoon having built a huge ramp and a floatation system.

Watch this space!