Napier Port is claiming a world first for a port with the construction of an onsite little blue penguin sanctuary.
The port is currently expanding its operation with the construction of a new wharf.
However, it needed to make sure its current residents had a new place to live. With seaside views, fresh paint, and no predators, the new sanctuary they’ve built is prime real estate for penguins.
“Ports are wonderful places for birds because for a start there are no dogs running around and the penguins are safe and secondly without public access it's also quiet so ports particularly for penguins can provide excellent breeding sites,” John Cockram of Massey University told 1 NEWS.
It’s estimated 91 breeding pairs of korora or little blue penguins nest inside the erosion walls of the port which was a surprise to the Port’s environment advisor Paul Rose.
“Initially we thought we only had five, five odd pairs,” said Mr Rose.
The plan is to move 35 of them here by the end of the month. That's where penguin detector dog Rua comes in. He’s been sniffing out burrows along the wall ahead of its demolition.
Mr Rose said that helps them get a rough idea of where all the penguins are located.
“Some will have to be moved out of the wall physically as we build the wharf and others will come naturally,” he said.
Spaces are filling up fast with a pair of chicks already choosing to make the move.
Modelled on Oamaru's famous penguin colony, the site provides opportunities to research the species whose population is declining and whose behaviour is something of a mystery.
Mr Cockram said the Napier Port is one of a number of sites being developed around the country.
The two storey boxes have been designed and painted by local school children. They’re creative and cosy homes which are hoped to prove attractive to the world's smallest penguin.