It's not just humans facing a housing crisis — it seems Northland penguins are also struggling to find safe, dry homes to bring up their chicks.
About 25 children and almost as many adults gathered at Waitangi Treaty Grounds recently to help put that right by building a series of penguin houses from rocks and cement.
The event was organised by Paihia conservation group Bay Bush Action with volunteers travelling from as far away as Rawene to take part.
Twelve-year-old Archie Bower, a keen pest trapper from Ōpua, said he had spent the day ''grabbing heaps of rocks from the shore'' and learning about penguins.
''They're really smart, really cool birds. We're making good houses so no predators can get in and they're safer and warmer, so they can lay more eggs.''
Hera August, 10, of Rawene, said she was helping out because she loved penguins.
''They're cute, they're precious, they live in this world, but they're getting extinct. There's not a lot of them left.''
Bay Bush Action trustee Brad Windust said last Thursday's event was the start of looking after little blue penguins, or kororā, in the Bay of Islands.
''There's no better place to start than Waitangi Treaty Grounds because they've put a huge effort into pest control and it's a no dog zone.''
Those efforts was starting to pay off, he said. Two years ago just two pairs were nesting at the Treaty Grounds; now there were five.
They usually nested in rock crevices and under flax bushes but their new homes could be defended against predators and were warm and dry.
While penguins didn't have purpose-built homes in the past, in those days they didn't have to have to contend with dogs, stoats and feral cats.
''Having really nice homes they can defend just gives then the edge.''
Nationwide the little blue penguin population had decreased by 60 per cent since 1960, Windust said.
''They've got so much to deal with. It's not just predators, it's plastic pollution, getting tangled up in fishing line, and boat strike. Set nets are a real problem too.''
Penguins weren't just cute — they also played an important role in the ecosystem, for example by bringing ocean nutrients back to land.
Windust said the event had been made possible by the Princess Local Partnership programme.
In 2019 Princess Cruises pledged $2 from every passenger visiting the Bay of Islands, raising $100,000 before the Covid pandemic hit.
Windust said the funding had allowed Bay Bush Action to ''massively'' increase its pest control work in Ōpua State Forest, which cloaks the hills behind Paihia.
While cruising companies were sometimes criticised for their environmental track record, Windust said he gave credit where it was due.
''This is a really positive thing for the Bay of Islands, not only for wildlife but also for the next generation coming through.''
On Friday another group of children painted and installed kiwi boxes in Ōpua forest, where the national bird's numbers have doubled in the past two years.
The boxes, which were built by inmates at Ngāwhā prison, protect nesting kiwi from dogs and boost chick survival rates.
Princess Cruises aims to give $1 million to New Zealand projects over five years.
While closed borders mean no ships or passenger donations this season, Asia-Pacific senior vice-president Stuart Allison said the company remained committed.
''Our friends at Bay Bush Action have been telling us the extra funding through Princess Cruises and its guests has made a big difference to their conservation efforts in Ōpua State Forest. And we're really excited their work is extending to penguin houses on the shores of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds because of our obvious connection with the sea,'' he said.
Bay Bush Action is the first group to be sponsored but Kiwi Coast and school conservation programme Te Waka Kaitiaki Whenua are also in line for funding.