Watch a detailed behind-the-scenes tour of the facility with Dr Brett Gartrell

VIPs shower attention on rehabilitating wildlife

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Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey with Prime Minister John Key.
(photo Maritime New Zealand)


Mr Maharey and Oiled Wildlife Response Unit director
Dr Brett Gartrell check the little blue penguins.

University staff rehabilitating birds at the Oiled Wildlife Response Unit in Tauranga had several high-profile visitors inspecting their work today.

Massey Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey spent the morning on a pre-arranged visit to thank staff at the centre set up in the suburb of Te Maunga, near Mt Maunganui.

Many of them have been there since container ship Rena struck a reef 13 days ago setting off New Zealand's worst environmental disaster.

Prime Minister John Key and several senior politicians also visited the centre yesterday. "It’s incredible work they’re doing," Mr Key said. "‘One of the saddest images we have seen is of dead wildlife and we’re having to minimise that as much as we can.”

He was accompanied by cabinet colleague Tony Ryall and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges. Science and Innovation Minister Wayne Mapp also visited today as did Labour’s conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson.

The plight of birdlife, from little blue penguins to pied shags and rare New Zealand dotterels, caught up in the oil spill has resonated around the world. To date 235 have been retrieved, painstakingly cleaned and are being nursed back to health. Mr Maharey says he is very proud of the work being carried out by the University’s NZ Wildlife Health Centre, which has temporarily suspended operations at the Manawatu campus with virtually all staff now working in Tauranga.
“The group here are just doing a fantastic job, and they are potentially going to be here for some time,” Mr Maharey says.

The site of the rehabilitation centre continues to expand with another three tents erected to accommodate the demands on space to accommodate up to 500 birds.

Oiled Wildlife Response Unit director and Massey veterinarian Dr Brett Gartrell says further penguin swimming pools, with extra fixtures to allow the birds to swim in and exit the pool were also being set up.

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