Feb 19th 2020 /
Westland ocean outfall project aims to increase penguin population
Westland Milk Products is moving mountains to ensure Hokitika’s blue penguin population not only survives but thrives over the course of its ocean outfall project and beyond.
Westland CEO Toni Brendish said Westland hoped its project, which has now commenced oceanside work south of the Westland District Council’s Hokitika treatment ponds, was the start of work that would lead to better penguin population protection down the length of the West Coast.
She said the development of a detailed 30-page management plan to ensure the wellbeing of Eudyptula minor had created passionate penguin advocates among the project’s contractors and Westland staff.
“Working with the West Coast Penguin Trust in the planning and now delivery of our proposal has been a very rewarding experience,’’ Ms Brendish said.
“We’re hoping this will lead to a very long relationship with the West Coast Penguin Trust to support the work they do to protect our local populations. We want the work that we do to create a better environment for the blue penguin.’’
Environmental Manager for Westland Chris Pullen said the company’s partnership with the Penguin Trust had extended well beyond the ocean outfall project.
“We’re now working with the Trust on a number of measures to help protect the birds,’’ Mr Pullen said. “Free roaming dogs, vehicles, and habitat loss or disturbance are some of the threats but creating public awareness about the penguins’ activity, what their habits and breeding cycles are, is part of the answer.’’
Before work near penguin habitat could begin, a penguin-proof fence had to be constructed. Representatives from the main contractors, sub-contractors, Westland, the Department of Conservation and the West Coast Regional Council were also taken through an induction event to ensure the penguins do well during and after construction.
The Penguin Trust will train staff members from each company working on the project on how to handle and relocate penguins should rangers from either the Trust or the Department of Conservation be unable to help.
“However, the best advice is to leave the handling and relocation to the experts,’’ Mr Pullen said. “To put this into effect, a hot line to the Department and the Trust has been established.’’
West Coast Penguin Trust Manager Inger Perkins said she had been part of discussions since the project was first proposed a decade ago.
“Westland identified the fact that the pipeline would be going through penguin nesting and foraging areas and have been at pains to work with the Trust to ensure no harm will come to the penguins,’’ she said.
“Not only have we been involved every step of the way to ensure penguins will be safe during the construction project, but we have also built an excellent relationship and we’re delighted the relationship is much broader than the pipeline project.
“As a regionwide business, Westland Milk Products are finding ways to support our region-wide penguin conservation projects, both locally in Hokitika, and across the coast.”
Mr Pullen said land-based pipelaying is currently progressing as planned and expected to reach the ocean site work by mid-2020. Two teams are working on land-based pipelaying, one team from the factory, and the other from the ocean site.
Work to construct a hard-stand from which heavy equipment will operate on the district council-owned paddock south of council’s treatment ponds began in mid-February following construction of the penguin-proof fence.
Ms Perkins said the new fence would define the work area, protect the public from danger but also keep silt from washing off the site and prevent curious penguins from getting into the site and becoming stuck there or in danger from machinery or trenches.
Under seabed drilling and pipelaying to a point 800m offshore is expected to begin around the middle of the year, depending on availability of equipment.
The ocean outfall project is the culmination of 10 years of planning to replace the Hokitika plant’s current system of distributing treated wastewater into the Hokitika River.
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