DOC inaction revealed at marina development near Kororā

Source: 1News

Opponents of a Waiheke Island marina development say are in disbelief after discovering the Department of Conservation (DOC) did not weigh in during the project's resource consent, despite a request from Auckland Council.

In 2017, Auckland Concil gave resource consent to Kennedy Point Boatharbour Ltd to build a luxury marina right next to the burrows of Kororā, the native little blue penguin.

Protest groups fought the development from the beginning, and now, the local MP Chloe Swarbrick has discovered DOC didn't step in when it had the chance.

An email from Auckland Council informed Swarbrick that DOC was specifically served notice and made aware of the proposal, but chose not to submit.

She says the information is "hugely disappointing".

READ MORE: Demonstrators trying to 'protect penguin burrows' arrested at site of Waiheke marina development

"We now have proof the Department of Conservation were asked to submit on the resource consent and they did not.

"We could've prevented all this heartache, this destruction to a Kororā habitat and some of the divisiveness that's happened... people are really upset."

"We also know that they advised or misinformed the minister that there were no Kororā when again that was demonstrably disproven.

"They also did not turn up to the site until a month and a half after the development and the occupation had first begun. They've been missing in action since day one."

Protect Pūtiki and environmental group Mauri o te Moana spokesperson Bianca Ranson says DOC isn't fulfilling its public responsibility.

"They are trusted by a lot of people in Aotearoa New Zealand to be the voice for our vulnerable wildlife.

"They're not doing the job that they're trusted with."

In a statement, DOC says while it was aware of the community's concern for the Kororā colony, it considered the risk to be low.

"Kororā are found in numerous locations in the Hauraki Gulf and DOC science and technical advice is [that] Kororā are robust birds and tolerant of disturbance, as evidenced by them being present in highly modified areas with significant human activity.

"Dogs are likely the biggest terrestrial threat to Kororā. Cats, ferrets and stoats will also kill them."

The news comes after Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan was forced to correct the record in Parliament.

In April she told the house that no penguins were living near the site, but footage surfaced only hours later showing Kororā returning to their burrows nearby.

"I can confirm that I have seen that footage and consequently made further inquiries to my officials expressing my dissatisfaction," Allen told Parliament.

"It's been made clear to me that the information was inaccurate... Kororā have sometimes been returning to those burrows in the evening"

Marina development is now well underway with DOC having approved a plan for developers to relocate the penguins.