If you asked the chairman of the Napier Port Board five years ago whether there were Little penguins in any significant numbers at the port, he would have said no.
On Wednesday however, Alasdair MacLeod attended a blessing for the port's new kororā sanctuary, believed to be the first on-port penguin sanctuary in the world.
The port discovered a significant population of the ocean-going birds living on rocks in its breakwaters while going through the resource consent process to build a new wharf.
Instead of relocating the birds, it decided to create a space which could be used for research, education and conservation efforts.
"One of the things we pride ourselves on as a port is that everyone gets safely home, and we really want our penguins to get safely home too," MacLeod said.
The sanctuary is colourful, dotted with nesting boxes decorated by children at Napier Central School as well as local marae.
One cheerfully declares "hello penguin", another is decorated with shells and paua, a third is a miniature fire station.
On Wednesday, local hapū, students and port staff gathered under the blazing Hawke's Bay sun to bless the sanctuary, and the waharoa (the entrance into the sanctuary from the ocean).
Napier Port Environmental Advisor Paul Rose, aka Penguin Paul, said there were 91 breeding pairs living at the port, with 35 needing to be moved to the new sanctuary.
The sanctuary's design is based on the Blue Penguin colony in Oamaru, which started with 20 birds and now has 300, with help from professor John Cockrem from the veterinary science school at Massey University.
Rose joked that it isn't a competition, but they would like to see their colony do as well as the one in Oamaru.
"The next stage for us is to get the vegetation to grow to provide shade for them, and more of a natural environment."
He said the port hopes see others follow in its lead, and is planning to set a high standard of how ports can enhance the species, which is considered at-risk and declining.
"We can have a thriving, developing port, bursting at the seams, and still provide habitat for others."
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The sanctuary may also become a tourist attraction, potentially bringing cruise ship passengers through the space as they disembark, as well as opening it up for locals and other tourists.
It will be several years before that happens, however, Rose saying the port wants to let the colony establish itself first.
Despite the birds not being officially moved into the space yet, some are already making it their home.
There are two 6-week-old chicks, just losing their fluff, and in another box is a chick which on Wednesday was less than 24 hours old, another was just starting to hatch.
Professor John Cockrem said the port was going above and beyond just providing an alternate nesting site, using artificial nest boxes allows research to take place, such as feeding patterns and survival rates, which can help conservation work.
On top of that the port is providing support for Cockrem's research work, enabling him to visit other kororā colonies and put together a network of people and groups who work with kororā.
"Also to facilitate work at other locations, including the tracking work that we are doing with the hoiho, yellow-eyed penguin."
He said ports provide a incredibly safe space for the species, as they are free from threats such as dogs, cat and humans.
Cockrem said keeping dogs on leashes is one way residents in Napier can help protect the colony, which extends as far as Perfume Point.
"Dogs kill penguins, dogs can smell penguins 30 or 40 metres away."
He said if people do see a kororā, they should "leave it to its own devices".
The penguins in the port will be protected by a waharoa, carved by Hugh Tareha.
Napier Port Pou Tikanga and Environmental Advisor Te Kaha Hawaikirangi said traditionally waharoa were entrances into fortified pā, which depict ancestors to protect your home.
The top panels depict guardian of the sea Tangaroa and Pania of the reef, a third panel shark representing Pania's child, Moremore.
The forth, Hawaikirangi explained, is a kororā.
"Just in case a seal comes up and gets confused."