People power saves rare kiwi from water pipeline - for now

Plans to build a pipeline through a kiwi sanctuary have seemingly halted in the face of growing public backlash.

More than 18,000 people signed a petition opposing the pipeline to take fresh water that originates in Mount Aspiring National Park, pipe it out to ships 6km offshore and export it in bulk.

The petition was delivered to Parliament on Wednesday and received by Green Party environment spokeswoman Eugenie Sage.

It was launched by ActionStation following a Newshub exclusive in April that revealed the planned pipeline would run through a sanctuary for the rare Haast tokoeka kiwi (the southern brown kiwi).

There are just over 400 Haast tokoeka left in Aotearoa. 33 of them are believed to live near the pipeline.

Okuru Enterprises, now trading as Alpine Pure, first applied for consent to pipe water from Tuning Fork Creek on the West Coast more than 20 years ago and renewed its consents last year.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry turned down the invitation to accept the petition.

She says Okuru Enterprises would need to reapply to the Department of Conservation for permission to lay the pipeline, since the kiwi sanctuary had been established after the company's historical consent application.

Barry says she wrote to Okuru Enterprises three months ago informing them of this and is yet to receive an application.

She says the 18,534 signatures on the petition won't affect whether she allows the application.

"It isn't going to sway me one way or another as a judicial decision-maker around this process if I do in fact make a decision on it."

Barry says the consultation process will be "very public and very contested".

Part of the consent requires Okuru Enterprises to capture and/or remove kiwi that get in the way of construction.

Maggie Barry says DoC is "very confident" about translocating kiwi, but she says she had not received any formal advice on how easy it is relocate tawaki, the rare penguin that also may be affected by the pipeline construction.

Conservationist Sir Alan Mark was in an advisory committee set up by the Forest Service in the 1980s to decide whether the land should be included in the national park.

He says although the Forest Service never got around to formalising the proposal, the land has "very high conservation value" and is critical to the survival of the Haast tokoeka.

He described the proposed pipeline as a "major intrusion on a threatened species habitat" that would impact 10 percent of the bird's total remaining population.

He says relocating the birds into another area of the sanctuary would not guarantee their survival.

Attempts by Newshub to contact chairman of Okuru Enterprises, Peter Roselli, were unsuccessful.