Sun, Feb 11, 2024 10:00 AM

Lasers and sprinklers: Council searches for seagull solution


Maia Hart

Seagulls have started nesting behind sun screens on the side of Blenheim’s new library and art gallery.

Marlborough District Council libraries manager Glenn Webster said bird poo, and its smell, had become “a big problem” in the installation, which partly shaded the northern side of the upper floor.

“Particularly around the front side of the [ground floor] cafe, it's the last thing you want to have to deal with when you're having a nice cup of coffee.”

It’s not the first time birds, and their poop, had been a problem in central Blenheim.

In 2020, businesses joined forces to tackle the problem and clean up the roof of Richmond House in Blenheim’s central business district, but they had to stop when they realised red-billed gulls were endangered birds.

The library’s poop issue was highlighted in an information package from Glenn that went to the council’s planning, finance and community committee on February 7.

PHOTO 1: Half finished sun panels on Blenheim’s library and art gallery in April last year. Photo: Supplied/Stuff

Blenheim ward councillor Jamie Arbuckle asked what the cost was going to be to rectify the latest issue, and how it was going to be fixed.

But council’s property and community facilities manager Jamie Lyall said he did not know yet.

“It’s news to me ... I’m dealing with the ones on top of the PHO [Primary Health Organisation] building at the moment,” Lyall said.

He said the council met with the Department of Conservation (DOC) last week about the influx on seagulls in Blenheim’s central business district.

They [seagulls] have just come through a nesting season,” he said.

“DOC assured us that they would all be heading out to sea, but they’re a protected species, the seagulls. The pigeons not so much.”

He said DOC had told them they had come to the CBD because there was a scarcity of food in their original habitat, which had been put down to the previous three seasons of La Niña.

“Whether that’s fact or fiction, it appears to be happening across the country.

“A lot of provincial councils are experiencing the same. We’re working towards a solution.”

He said simply using “eviction” as a solution would not work, because they would just shift to a neighbouring building.

The CBD already had spikes on a number of buildings to deter birds, while there were “lasers” on the council office building, on Seymour St, and sprinklers on the PHO building, on Queen St, he said.

Bird lasers are used to deter birds from approaching a building.

“We’ve got to be conscious that we don’t shift the problem somewhere else.

“But the new library, that could be a challenge, because it sounds like they’re nesting in behind the screens.”

Te Kahu o Waipuna - the Blenheim library and art gallery - opened with a soft launch in May last year.

The panels, attached to the outside of the $20m building, were one of the last parts of construction to be completed.

Seagulls are native birds protected by the Wildlife Act. Once they had built a nest they could not be disturbed without a wildlife exemption permit.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ on Air.

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