In one of the most hotly contested events of the year, Wellington City Council is putting its wings behind the kororā due to their prevalence in Wellington, the threat to them in their urban habitats, and also their rock star status in the capital.
The competition started in 2005 with a pull-out postal form to showcase the plight of New Zealand’s native birds – and has grown to be the tweet of the town.
Last year, the kererū swooped down on the crown after 50,000 votes were tallied, and although there is no official prize, all native birds are the winners at the end of the day, says Mayor Andy Foster.
“Wellingtonians are very passionate about native birds and the natural environment, which is why initiatives like Zealandia and Predator Free Wellington have been so successful.
“Kororā are now prevalent in the capital. They can be found all around the harbour, the coastlines, and Matiu/Somes Island – but they face many challenges, so we really want to protect them by reminding people to keep dogs on leads and away from nests, and watch out for signs about penguins crossing while driving.
“We’re collaborating with Wellington Zoo in supporting our little blue friends. The Nest Te Kōhanga team play a crucial role as they treat sick and injured native wildlife patients. Sadly this includes many kororā that have been attacked by dogs or hit by cars.”
Environment Partnership Leader Tim Park wants to make this the first win for the kororā in the 14 years of the competition.
“We work hard to support volunteer community groups like Places for Penguins and Te Motu Kairangi – Miramar Ecological Restoration to protect the kororā. These groups install nesting boxes, control pests, educate the public, and re-plant coastal areas to create safe spaces for penguins to breed.
“We also collaborate with DOC and Forest & Bird to protect endangered birds and educate the public – especially when they risk life and flipper for their sushi fix!”
To encourage and recognise good dog owners, the Council also offers a reduced dog registration fee for people who achieve Responsible Dog Owner (RDO) status.
The world's smallest penguin, the kororā is only found in New Zealand and southern parts of Australia.
Forest & Bird’s Bird of the Year voting for this year's competition opened on Monday 28 October and closes midnight on Sunday 10 November. This year, voters can select up to five birds, ranking them from 1 to 5.