Penguin proof fence for Punakaiki

Volunteers begin building the fence

The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust and New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) are to build a penguin proof fence south of Punakaiki in an effort to stop blue penguins being killed on SH6.

Blue Penguins are a protected species and detailed monitoring by the West Coast Blue Penguin Trust has found road kill is the single biggest cause of death in the local blue penguin population.

“In the last six years at least 109 blue penguins have been reported killed along a nine kilometre stretch between Punakaiki and Fox River.  Given that it is estimated the entire population of blue penguins on the West Coast is in the very low thousands this represents a significant percentage of the local penguin population killed by vehicles on this stretch of road in less than six years,” says Trust Ranger Reuben Lane.

A penguin proof fence would stop the blue penguins from crossing the highway but still allow them access to their burrows.  NZTA is providing the materials to build a 100 metre mesh fence south of the Punakaiki River and the Penguin Trust is providing the labour with help from the Conservation Volunteers.

NZTA Senior Assets Manager Mark Pinner says NZTA appreciates the chance to work with the West Coast Blue Penguin Trust to help stem the decline in blue penguin numbers on SH6.

“Not only does this initiative have the potential to protect the penguins there is also a road safety issue.  By stopping the penguins from crossing the road it removes a driving hazard and reduces the possibility of erratic driving behaviour,” says Mr Pinner.

The Trust and NZTA is hoping the penguin proof fence will proove successful in reducing penguin deaths.

“We want to see whether this trial fence can successfully stop the penguins crossing the highway, and it will give people an idea of what a penguin proof fence will look like.  Ultimately we would like to see similar fences erected in three other hot spots between Punakaiki and Fox River,” says Mr Lane.

A similar fence erected by the Friends of Lillico Penguins in Tasmania along a major highway has been very successful in bringing down the numbers of penguins killed on the road and increasing the penguin population.

The Trust and Conservation Volunteers will begin erecting the fence on 14 March 2012.