Hokitika beach habitat restoration

The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust and Hokitika Scouts have been restoring penguin nesting habitat on Hokitika Beach and recently had help from the guides to complete the planned planting of native coastal plants.

The project aims to restore penguin habitat on a 150 metre section of beach-front legal road north of the Revell Street / Richards Drive carpark.  It has the support of the Westland District Council.

Many locals who regularly walk the beach have noticed penguin footprints in this area, between the beach and the dunes, especially in the early morning and they have been seen in this area during the annual penguin census.

Hokitika Scouts and some of the flax they planted

During the census in 2010, The Hokitika Scouts found evidence of blue penguins north of Hokitika but were concerned at the lack of suitable habitat in places.

The planting has taken place between two areas where penguins are already nesting in limited patches of coastal scrub including blackberry and gorse.

“The blackberry and gorse seems to be giving them some protection from dogs so we won’t remove that.  Essentially we’re filling in a gap between areas of vegetation,” said fomer West Coast Blue Penguin Trust Coordinator, Karen Mayhew.

Guides - from left, Ursina, Hannah and Rhiannon

Hokitika Guides finish off the planting, April 2014

What we will do is enhance the area by planting flax, various Coprosma, mahoe and cabbage trees – it will improve the area for both humans and penguins,” she says.  As it grows, it will also provide some shelter for stock in the neighbouring paddocks.

The Hokitika Scouts have helped with planting on three occasions and other local people have helped, splitting, carting and planting flax, donated by WestRoads, which is now thriving.

The final phase was to plant a variety of native species, which have been sourced locally and grown by Southside Garden Centre until large enough for transplanting.  The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust is grateful to the West Coast branch of Forest & Bird for funding to for the plants, which were planted in April 2014 with help from the guides and other local supporters.  It is hoped penguin nesting boxes can also be added to the area after the plants and soil structure has become established, probably after three to five years.

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