Westland petrel chick in burrow - photo Bruce Stuart-Menteath

The West Coast Penguin Trust’s vision is that all West Coast seabirds and their habitat are healthy and thriving.

A recent decision not to allow mining at Barrytown partly over fears for Westland petrels or tāiko illustrates that advocacy is both critical and effective in protecting coastal wildlife.

Read the Stuff story here, including a short video of a rescued Westland petrel being released.  Barrytown JV Ltd have not appealed the decision.

Barrytown flats
Barrytown flats – photo: Joanne Naish, Stuff

Although the Trust’s primary focus is penguins, we advocate for the protection of other seabirds and their habitat as opportunities or issues arise.  For example, the Trust recently provided feedback on the new regional District plan, Te Tai o Poutini Plan, with penguins, Westland petrels, other seabirds and their habitat in mind.  We also keep an eye on new resource consents as they are received by the regional council in case any activities are proposed that could adversely affect seabirds.  We can then raise concerns and provide useful information as new consents are processed.

When mining was proposed at Barrytown flat, our major concern was for the Westland petrel.  The only breeding site in the world for these birds is in the forest clad slopes south of Punakaiki.  Although the resource consent application was ‘limited notified’ by Grey District and West Coast Regional Councils, and only immediate neighbours and other affected parties were able to submit formally and be heard at the Resource Management Act commissioner hearing, any information that is useful and pertinent to the processing of an application may be accepted by the council planning staff.

Young Westland petrels disoriented by lights and rescued and released - photo Bruce Menteath
Young Westland petrels disoriented by lights and rescued and released – photo: Bruce Menteath

The West Coast Penguin Trust shared its extreme concerns that mining would create yet another threat to Westland petrels.  We have been fortunate to have eminent seabird ecologist, Kerry-Jayne Wilson MNZM, as our Scientist and founding Trustee, and we provided her comments to both councils.  You can read those comments here:  2021 06 02 Barrytown JV proposal – Westland petrels – West Coast Penguin Trust – Kerry-Jayne Wilson comments

It subsequently became clear that mining was proposed even closer to the Westland petrel colony than first thought and we provided additional comments noting the increased potential risk to the petrels.  2021 09 01 WCPT – KJW – further notes re Westland petrels and Barrytown JV Ltd mining application

Dr Susan Waugh of the the Australasian Seabird Group, of which Kerry-Jayne has been a committee member, also submitted a letter to relevant ministers and copied to the two councils and others expressing their concern about the risk to Westland petrels.

Kate Simister, DOC Biodiversity Ranger based in Westport, is leading conservation efforts for Westland petrels and spoke brilliantly at the hearing.

In their Final Decision – Barrytown JV Ltd -10 Feb 2022, the hearing commissioners note their concerns about the adverse effects of night time vehicle movements that  could result in unacceptable cumulative effects on taiko.

If you would like to find out more about Westland petrels / tāiko, Kerry-Jayne has provided information and some great photos for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels: https://www.acap.aq/latest-news/4154-featuring-acap-listed-species-and-their-photographers-the-westland-petrel-by-kerry-jayne-wilson 

 

Westland petrel in flight
Westland petrel in flight – Photo: Sonja Ross