New reserve opens at Catlins

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The country’s newest public reserve has opened on the Catlins coast, to provide a safe haven for the endangered Yellow-eyed penguin.

The Department of Conservation has teamed up with a community trust to create a long strip of protected coastline, about two hours south of Dunedin.
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This remote area on the Catlins coast is one of the main habitats of the Yellow-eyed penguin.

And now DOC – together with the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust – have bought 50 hectares of coastal farmland, effectively creating a 12 kilometre reserve along the Southern Ocean.

New Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick planted a Rata tree to celebrate the occasion.

It is expected to be the first of many planted here as part of a reforestation project, to help the penguins feel more at home.

“Until we put vegetation around these sorts of coastal margins that encourages them to come in and breed, we’re at peril of losing more and more of them,” Chadwick says.

This 12 kilometre stretch of coastline is home to around 50 breeding pairs, that’s 10percent of the Yellow-eyed penguin population in the South Island.

The penguins have coped relatively well in the isolated area, but plans to add fences and undertake predator control work will help improve their chances or survival.

Sea birds could also be reintroduced into the country’s newest public reserve, which DOC describes as a good investment for generations of New Zealanders.