Shipping schedules Marinas

Protecting our bird life as part of the iReX Project

Ecologists surveying the port area for signs of korora

Port Marlborough operates across the land and sea interface, so working in the coastal environment and delivering infrastructure projects there, is part of our everyday work.   We take the responsibility for protecting our unique marine environment very seriously, especially when we are making physical changes.  Living our company value of ‘Kaitiakitanga – Protect the future’ is at the heart of every project, and guides decision making for our operational and project teams – including through our partnership with KiwiRail for the Waitohi Picton Ferry Precinct Redevelopment (iReX project).

The iReX project team have embedded environmental protections and controls right from the outset. As part of the early investigative work to support project planning and resource consent applications, an ecological impact assessment identified the key ecological resources.  In particular, we engaged experts to observe and identify avian (bird) species active in the project area.

Birds in Picton Harbour

Over the last several years there has been active research and monitoring of avian populations in the Picton area.

In 2019, Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, supported by Port Marlborough, commissioned The Kaikōura Ocean Research Institute (KORA) with Alastair Judkins and Mena the conservation dog to undertake a baseline survey of the coastlines from Waikawa Bay right around the Victoria Domain, through the port and marinas to Shakespeare Bay.

This was followed by the ecological impact assessment referred to above.  The ecology team identified 31 species of seabird in Picton Harbour, and recognised three significant species as requiring ongoing monitoring throughout the project. The team observed tarā nui (Caspian tern Hydroprogne caspia) and torea tai (variable oystercatcher, Haematopus unicolor) on the periphery of the project area, in relatively low numbers.

Port Marlborough workshop team at Waikawa Bay School building penguin nesting boxes

Kororā, or little penguin (Eudyptula minor) was the third significant species observed, confirming local knowledge of their presence and activity around the port wharves and jetties.  Kororā are well known to sometimes prefer human-made infrastructure and breakwaters over more natural habitats, which can mean they could be vulnerable in the port area.  A priority recommendation from the ecology team, actioned before the Spring 2021 breeding season, was to deter the resident kororā from nesting in the project area by installing mesh barriers and sandbags at potential nesting sites outside the nesting season, and one-way flaps on stormwater pipes.

With amazing community support and skills from The Picton Mens’ Community Shed and the pupils of Waikawa School, we were able to build and install new penguin nesting boxes at sites in natural habitat nearby, in locations identified by our ecology team.


Mahi Tahi – Working together for the community

Collaborating with Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary for the initial Kororā survey with KORA provided a great opportunity for Port Marlborough to take a wider view of kororā populations around all our areas of activity from Shakespeare Bay right around and through Waikawa Bay.  Our Capabilities Manager Rose Prendeville said  “It was great to find a strong population of kororā tucked away safely in the wider port environment, well away from the project area.  It’s been beneficial all round to share relevant findings with local conservation groups invested in managing these areas, with the results not just informing our port operations, but also helping our community groups by informing their pest control efforts and biodiversity monitoring.”

Conservation Dogs detecting presence of kororā

Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary


“Thanks to the fantastic surveys carried out, we have been able to identify many new kororā nesting sites that we can now monitor. This has been incredibly valuable as without the support of the Port we would not have this been able to do these surveys.

Following these surveys, as we been able identify where the kororā are choosing to nest, we can best support them by placing new nesting boxes around their preferred sites and relocating existing unused burrows to better locations that will provide nesting habitat long term.

It has also allowed us to work with the NZ Penguin Initiative and we are looking at ways to develop long term nesting success monitoring based on the findings from these reports.”

Hazel Ross, Biodiversity Manager, Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary


Ongoing Monitoring and Ecological Protection

Following on from the initial ecological study, a 12-month monitoring programme took place.  Specialised ecologists Wildlife Management International (WMIL) undertook regular monthly surveys to monitor the populations and movements of the three key avian species. Keen-eyed locals may have seen the ecologists around our coastlines each month accompanied by Joanna Sim from DabChickNZ and her specially trained conservation dogs, locating kororā. Each month, WMIL investigated any potential bird populations within 100m of the project site, and data collated over the full annual cycle has captured a broad picture, including roosting and nesting locations of kororā.

Results from the 12-month programme provided essential information to the project’s Avian Management Plan.  This is now in place to guide the project team.  It informs decisions around construction management, timing of particular activities, and specific monitoring and vigilance to protect the welfare of these three significant species through the several years of project delivery.

Our overall objective is to provide opportunities around our harbour for these species, encouraging nesting in natural and non-operational habitats, and we look forward to working together with our specialist ecologists throughout the project delivery to ensure the protection of the kororā.

Nesting Boxes at Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary