School pupils are helping restore blue penguin habitat as part of the development of a viewing facility at Pilots Beach, Taiaroa Head, which is due to open next month.
Pupils from a variety of schools have been working hard weeding, digging holes and planting native plants at the beach as part of an Otago Peninsula Trust education programme funded by Kids Restore New Zealand Environmental Trust.
The work is part of the Pukekura Trust's restoration of the area and includes a walkway from Taiaroa Head down to the beach, which, by opening night on October 16, will be lit by red LED lights at twilight to guide people down to a 100-person viewing platform.
Blue Penguins Pukekura director of operations and wildlife Hoani Langsbury said information about the beach, the penguins and the area's heritage and culture would be placed at the top and at intervals down the walkway.
"It has taken two years' planning and work to get to this stage."
People would be guided to the platform after gathering at the albatross centre, where they could buy tickets ($20 for adults, $10 for children and $50 for families) and receive instruction, including on the importance of being quiet.
The platform, which would be lit by low intensity white light, also had access for the disabled.
"We should no longer have visitors charging around with torches," Mr Langsbury said.
The trust had a concession from the Department of Conservation that allowed it to run the tours from twilight for a couple of hours, but the public was free to visit the area before that.
The trust had nearly eradicated rabbits from the fenced beach area and had also, with the help of volunteers and school children, placed nesting boxes around the hills.
An area for recreational access to the beach was also being created.
The planting work had been funded by the Air New Zealand Environment Trust and there were 25,000 plants, mainly snow tussock and coprosmas, to be planted. Seventeen trailer loads of weeds had been removed.