penguin release

The West Coast Penguin Trust is hailing the benefits of exhaustive environmental and penguin management planning after a nocturnal visitor to an ocean outfall drilling site recently was successfully returned to the ocean.

Westland Dairy Company took the initiative several years ago when the idea of a pipeline to take treated waste out to sea rather than into the Hokitika River started taking shape.  The pipeline was proposed to go through a small area of coastal scrub on the northern edge of Hokitika, but that small area was home to dozens of blue penguins.

As pipeline plans progressed, so did the preparation to work in a coastal area where penguins would be present.  The West Coast Penguin Trust provided details for a comprehensive blue penguin management plan that was incorporated into contract documents for the tender process.

McConnell Dowell won the tender to install the pipeline and have embraced the idea of working in a penguin zone, welcoming the inductions for contract teams by Trust Manager, Inger Perkins, and implementing the many requirements of the penguin management plan.  They have borrowed a taxidermied blue penguin – kindly loaned by DOC – so that they are all aware of what they are protecting and looking out for.

So when the night crew saw a penguin on the site, they alerted the site manager, who got hold of the Trust.  Footprints were seen but it wasn’t clear where the penguin had hidden itself until later in the day.

McConnell Dowell staff were ingenious, helpful and ultimately delighted to help the penguin gently out of its hiding place under a container housing pumping machinery.  With guidance from Ms Perkins, they released the penguin to the beach and watched as the penguin looked around, got its bearings, and then headed out to sea – a happy ending for everyone.

The key lesson was that the preparation paid off.  The Trust appeals to all those who may be working in coastal areas to think penguins.  They could be nesting anywhere – under trees, shrubs, houses, sheds, debris.  Check with the Trust before disturbing any coastal area, whether digging into or moving material so that no penguins are harmed.

The story has been shared through local newspapers and on Stuff here:

Blue penguin looks around before heading to sea after release
Lee Fitzpatrick releases the blue penguin
Lee Fitzpatrick releases the blue penguin at the beach beside the drilling project site
McConnell-Dowell-record-the-release_of the blue penguin
McConnell Dowell staff release and record the release of the rescued blue penguin
blue penguin - released and then off to sea
Rescued blue penguin – released and then off to sea
McConnell Dowell staff watch the rescued penguin head out to sea
McConnell Dowell staff watch the rescued penguin head out to sea