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A little blue penguin shelters among the rocks near Caroline Bay. PHOTO: COURIER FILES

A petition to keep dogs off Caroline Bay in the summer gathered almost 900 signatures in a week and is set to keep climbing.

The Timaru Penguins group had started the petition last week to counter plans by the Timaru District Council to allow dogs in the bay between 5am and 9am because members feared this could affect nesting penguins.

Penguins group spokesman Peter Bennett said almost 900 people had signed the online Action Station petition by early last week and estimated that paper petition signatories were in the hundreds.

He had been “pretty amazed” by the response of Timaru residents and other penguin supporters to the petition and hoped the council would listen to the group’s requests.

“We need [to be] listened to and discuss the issue more.”

The group would also be holding a sit-in at the council building on December 12.

One person who signed the online petition added the comment “Penguins have good and bad days like us .. This is our chance to help them have one less thing to stress about”.

The present bylaw bans dogs at all times on the bay between October and March, but was set to change if the bylaw was adapted to allow dogs on the bay beach from 5am to 9am.

Mr Bennett told The Courierlast week that changes enabling residents to walk their dogs on the bay at 5am, which was still dark in October and March, would interfere with adult penguins heading out to sea before dawn also leaving their chicks behind in nests.

A Timaru District Council spokesman said last week that the bylaw was being examined by council environmental compliance staff, who were to present a report on the changes at the next council meeting.

Although the bylaw was set to change next March, councillors could still revisit options in the coming months.