Since the launch of “penguin cam” in October thousands of people from New Plymouth and around the world have been able to watch a live feed from a kororā/blue penguin burrow at Ngā Motu Beach.

Ngā Motu Marine Reserve Society chairperson Anne Scott takes a look back at 20 years of advocating for marine conservation in the region.

Anne Scott admits it was no mean feat to protect Nga Motu/Sugar Loaf Island’s coastline for future generations. “We were naive and had no idea it would take as long as it did but now there’s great enthusiasm and awareness of marine life,” she says.

Formed in 1997, the Ngā Motu Marine Reserve Society began as a way to promote the idea of small marine reserves on the Taranaki Coast. It took 10 years for the formation of New Plymouth’s Tapuae Marine Reserve, which has a ‘no take’ policy that borders 1400 ha of the Sugar Loaf Islands.

As well as protecting the marine environment the society aims to foster community awareness of the coastal environment through education. Through the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme hundreds of Taranaki school children have benefitted by exploring the coast. “Young people have greater awareness and enthusiasm through snorkelling and studying marine life,” says Anne.

The society’s involvement in the Curious Minds “Project Hotspot”, which monitors sightings of four endangered species, has seen students research and develop practical solutions to environmental problems. Highlands Intermediate pupils approached the New Plymouth District Council about its non-biodegradable parking tickets when they noticed they were polluting the shores. “They took tickets back to school and put them in a blender to see if they would decompose but they didn’t. One of the plastic tickets was five years old,” says Anne. The council is still considering options to deal with the issue.

Anne says the Penguin Cam project has been a valuable resource for both the public and Taranaki schools. Pupils are getting a unique 24/7 insight into the life of of a kororā/blue penguin nesting on an egg in a concrete burrow through a live webcam which can be viewed on the Taranaki Mounga website.

Penguin cam is the culmination of years of work from many different groups – Forest and Bird (who built the burrows), Chaddy’s Charters, Ngā Motu Marine Reserve Society, PrimoWireless, George Mason Charitable Trust, True Sense of Security Ltd, and Taranaki Mounga.

“The penguin surveillance camera with its new technology is a high point for the long-term progress of the project. We are really pleased Taranaki Mounga has supported it, enabling school kids to do relevant projects and for the public to marvel at the private life of penguins without interference,” says Anne.

The Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society is integral in connecting the community to the environment, says Department of Conservation senior biodiversity ranger and Taranaki Mounga team member Emily King.

“They are a fantastic group who are really dedicated to the community and love what they do. It is important to have community partnerships share the same vision”.

It is worth keeping an eye on Penguin Cam as chicks are due to hatch in December.