West Coast water export pipeline may threaten native species

A Newshub investigation has found a pipeline taking water for export on the West Coast will cut through the habitat of three native species - a rare penguin, the Hector's dolphin and New Zealand's most endangered kiwi.

The tawaki is known as the rainforest penguin, because it likes to live in the bush.

Thought to be the second rarest penguin in the world, the tawaki nests in caves and under logs.

Now a colony at Jackson Bay is threatened by a pipeline that wants to take fresh water for export.

"These penguins live in the forested coastal area, any loss of native vegetation could have an impact on them," says West Coast Penguin Trust manager Inger Perkins.

A company, Alpine Pure, has consent for the pipeline to take water from Mt Aspiring down to a water storage area next to the penguin colony - and is seeking consent to take it five kilometres out to sea to a floating platform.

The final stretch out into the Bay will cut right through the natural habitat of the penguin - its population has dropped to 4000.

"So adding more disturbance there could contribute to that continued decline which we're trying to avoid and reverse," Ms Perkins says.

And if the pipeline gets into Jackson Bay - there will be a "monobuoy" to hold the water.

Tankers will be alongside it and take the water offshore, in an area that's home to the rare Hector's Dolphin.

The Environment Court noted that "surveys have identified large numbers of dolphins with calves around the [area]".

"The applicant and the councils are not looking at the potential effects on both Hector's dolphin and Fiordland crested penguin," says Green Party MP Eugenie Sage.

Prime Minister Bill English thinks the plan is unlikely.

"There's been a possibility of a scheme for over 20 years and if it hasn't happened by now, the scheme itself is unlikely to happen," he says.

The pipeline is already cutting through a sanctuary for New Zealand's rarest kiwi - the Haast tokoeka.

But company spokeswoman Helen Rasmussen says she "stakes her life" on the fact that impacts on wildlife will be minimal.

"You're talking a project that's like a town water supply with the exception you're running a pipeline out to a monobuoy instead of being distributed to houses," she says. "It's a very small corridor."

Opposition to the pipeline is rising. An online petition has got 13,000 signatures since Newshub revealed it is will go through the kiwi sanctuary.

Now an endangered penguin and dolphin are in the way too.

Submissions to the consent for the final stretch of the pipeline close on Saturday.