A group of Hawke's Bay residents have organised themselves to help out some of the smallest of their Bay of Plenty neighbours affected by the Rena oil spill.

The bird death toll from the environmental disaster has now reached nearly 1,300 - among them many little blue penguins.

A Napier factory has sent a care package off to Tauranga - full of tiny woolly penguin pajamas.

The PJ package came about after Napier's Design Spun general manager Brendan Jackson was contacted last week by a local woman whose daughter had been involved in the oil response unit.


The recovery crews were coming across oil-smeared penguins who, trying to preen their feathers clean, became more ill.

The Massey University Wildlife Recovery team she was part of had cast their minds back to a similar spill in Tasmania some years ago, where locals knitted pure wool jumpers to be put on the little blue penguins during the recovery phase to prevent them getting at their feathers before they could be washed clean.

It worked, so the word went out to Design Spun, which has a "yarn club'' of devoted knitters.

Within a week the four to five dozen bright little jumpers were all knitted and the last of them were sent to Tauranga yesterday.

Some even have messages including one, which has the words "Cut Down on Oil Use'' embroidered lovingly on the front.

"News of what the knitters were up to quickly got around,'' Mr Jackson said.

"It went a bit viral and we've actually got about 100, much more than we need.

"But it's one of those feel-good projects people like to get involved with and we thank them all very much.''


He had also taken calls from as far afield as the BBC in England asking what "the penguin PJs'' were all about.