Development as Wellington's Shelly Bay has halted after more Kororā, the world's smallest penguin, were discovered on the site over the weekend. / File
The controversial Shelly Bay redevelopment has been halted after rare kororā penguins reappeared on the site over the weekend.
Taranaki Whānui is working with the developers on kororā management but they said it seemed members of the public opposing the development might have tampered with the fence surrounding the site, in order to repopulate it.
"It sounds like people have acted with hearts but not with heads and allowed the kororā in - and it's dangerous," kaitiaki, Charlie Rudd said.
A penguin specialist and penguin detection dog had been deployed to the site to locate where the penguins have nested, a tougher task than it may sound given large piles of rubble are present from buildings demolished in recent months.
"We need to completely clear the site, understand where they are and then we've got to accommodate them," Rudd said.
The Wellington Company has been planning a $500 million development for the land since 2014 but it has faced continued protests from mana whenua, environmental protest groups and locals.
Film director Peter Jackson has been a vocal opponent of the development, saying it would be bad for green spaces and the local environment.
Rudd said the development would remain halted until the penguins were removed.
"This is not about any development, this is about the kororā now," Rudd said.
Additional reporting - RNZ