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Happy Feet topic of final Parliamentary debate

Thursday 06 Oct 2011 4:55p.m.

Happy Feet topic of final Parliamentary debate

By Lloyd Burr

It was the last day of Parliament today and after a term that included the Pike River Mine Disaster, major seismic events in Canterbury and the effects of a global financial crisis, Happy Feet the emperor penguin was the final topic of discussion.

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes brought an emperor penguin stuffed-toy, caught up in a fishing net, into question time today as he spoke about fishing in the Antarctic, where Happy Feet lives.

The penguin arrived on Peka Peka Beach in June and was taken to Wellington Zoo after he became sick from eating sand and sticks.

His recovery was something of a fairytale and he was taken back to the Sub-Antarctic, fitted with a tracking device, on a NIWA ship.

But there was no fairytale ending, the tracking device fell off and the penguin’s whereabouts became a thing of gossip.

And it was Happy Feet’s whereabouts that was the topic of the final question in question time today with Mr Hughes using the story to question the Minister of Fisheries about the fishing practices in the area the penguin was released.

Mr Hughes asked “Is it possible that the country’s favourite emperor penguin Happy Feet was killed by a trawler?”.

Minister of Fisheries Phil Heatley replied, amidst an unsettled House, saying it was “highly improbable”.

“I can report that when Happy Feet’s transponder turned off, the nearest South Blue Whiting fishing vessel was 32 kilometres away,” he said.

Fellow National MP Paul Quinn then asked Mr Heatley if he did know the whereabouts of the penguin.

“I really want to,” Mr Heatley said, “I have heard it said that Happy Feet may have very well become a Happy Meal”.

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