Waka Kotahi accepts formal warning on penguin death investigation


Improvements have been made on the Te Ara Tupua - Ngā Ūranga to Pito-One project site to better protect kororā/little blue penguins during the ongoing construction of the project’s new resilient shoreline (revetments and seawalls) and shared path.

The Department of Conservation has issued a formal warning to Te Ara Tupua Alliance (made up of Waka Kotahi and our design and construction partners for the project) over one incident where a penguin was killed.

Other cases which were reported by the project team to the Department of Conservation have been closed.

Mark Kinvig, National Manager Infrastructure Delivery, says Waka Kotahi and the Alliance take the warning seriously, and steps have already been taken to ensure better protections for the penguins are in place.

“Immediately after the deaths, we introduced new protections to the project site. We halted construction while this was done, and ensured extra training was given to project staff to understand the project’s environmental requirements. We put in place a new internal approval process for all activity on site to ensure kororā and other protected wildlife are not put at risk by construction.”

Mr Kinvig says Waka Kotahi fully accepts the findings regarding the kororā death at the Piki Wahine barge site, where a kororā died due to construction activity.

“This incident should not have occurred, and we are doing everything we can to ensure there is no repeat. Waka Kotahi and our Alliance team are committed to delivering the project with the best possible environmental and conservation outcomes, which also means complying with all relevant legislation and the project’s consent conditions. Everyone in the project understands the seriousness of this warning.”

“We welcome the Department of Conservation’s observation that substantial changes have been made to construction processes and that no further deaths have occurred. However, there is no room for complacency, and this remains a high priority for the project team,” Mr Kinvig says

Ngā Ūranga ki Pito-One - Project site improvements

A range of changes and improvements have already been made on the Ngā Ūranga to Pito-One project site. These include:

  • An additional Kaitiaki role working directly with construction crews, helping site-based workers and leaders with practical ways to protect wildlife and work effectively
  • Greater involvement of ecologists in the planning stages of all new construction activity on site as a mandatory requirement before new activity begins.
  • Improved and additional fencing along the project area, keeping penguins away from areas where they are at risk, including State Highway 2.
  • Increased monitoring to identify any birds that may be in construction zones and highlight them so they can be better protected. 
  • Larger signs placed on sites marked by the ecology team as being occupied by kororā, and more surveillance and checks on the protection measures in place.
  • Additional training and information is being provided to construction staff to make sure they are fully aware of the ecological values of the site and the procedures that must be followed to protect them.

This is in addition to protections put in place ahead of construction, which include:

  • Penguin habitats were modified so that the birds can’t inhabit areas that will be directly affected by construction
  • Penguins found on site are relocated away from the project area before work begins in a particular section of the site. Penguins are tagged so that they can be identified if they are found on site again after being relocated to other areas away from construction.
  • If an active nest or moulting penguin is detected during construction works, works which could affect the nest or bird will stop immediately and will not re-start until nesting or moulting is complete. Any nest found will be cordoned off, and a dedicated exclusion zone is created. No construction work is allowed in these zones.