Rena: One year on
Fri, 05 Oct 2012 5:12a.m.
By Sarah Robson
There's no sign of oil on the beaches. No debris. It's near impossible to spot what's left of the wreck of the Rena on the Bay of Plenty horizon.
If you were none the wiser, it would be difficult to believe that New Zealand's worst environmental disaster had struck the postcard perfect region a year ago.
The Rena, a Liberian-flagged, Greece-owned container ship struck the Astrolabe Reef at 2.20am on October 5 last year.
More than 350 tonnes of oil leaked from the ship, coating sandy beaches and precious wildlife.
Debris from the containers that fell overboard washed up all along the coastline.
A year on, that's all gone.
The mangled wreck of the Rena remains wedged on the reef and salvors continue to battle dangerous conditions to retrieve containers still inside the ship's holds.
For many in the Bay of Plenty, the heartache caused by the grounding of the Rena remains a fresh memory.
But most are now more occupied with moving on from the disaster than dwelling on negative effects.
"As locals, we're gutted that it happened in the first place and we went through a hell of a time with all of that," says Rebecca Crosby, general manager of the Papamoa Beach Top 10 Holiday Resort.
"We're a pretty good community and there's no point for us to be negative any more.
"We've got our beautiful beach, we're all enjoying our lives here and obviously, as tourism operators, we want people to come here and share it with us."
Ms Crosby says things are looking more positive going into this summer and that people hope to "get on with life and stop talking about this bloody ship".
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby says there's an apprehensive feeling out there in the community.
"Last summer was terrible for a number of reasons," he says. The weather wasn't great and the economic downturn meant many Kiwis stayed at home.
Add to the mix the Rena and the publicity around the oil on the beaches and it ended up being "a very unhealthy melting pot of problems," Mr Crosby says.
However, there is a strong expectation that this summer will be a good one.
"The long term forecast is looking good and we desperately need those large numbers of visitors back."
As the beaches have been restored to their former pristine state by an army of volunteers, beach-dwelling wildlife has bounced back too.
More than 2000 birds were found dead following the Rena oil spill, while hundreds of oiled birds, including 345 little blue penguins, were cared for by a dedicated wildlife response team.
Kerri Morgan, who helped manage the response - her day job is a senior lecturer in avian and wildlife health at Massey University - says 95 per cent of the little blue penguins cared for at the wildlife recovery centre were released back into the wild.
The centre also took in 60 critically endangered New Zealand dotterels which were pre-emptively caught.
Ms Morgan says two studies are now looking at what's happened to the birds that were released. While there are no scientific results yet, she says feedback from people in the field is that there's quite a few little blue penguin chicks around.
Two major issues remain to be resolved.
The first is whether a resource consent should be sought by the ship's owners, Daina Shipping, to leave the Rena's sunken stern section on the Astrolabe Reef.
Earlier this week it was announced that the government has reached a financial settlement in which Daina Shipping has agreed to pay the crown $27.6 million for costs associated with the Rena grounding.
It was also agreed that if part of the wreck remains on the reef, Daina Shipping will pay the crown a further $10.4 million.
Local iwi have indicated that at this stage their preference is for the whole wreck removed.
The Tauranga mayor expects the issue to be the subject of huge community debate.
The second issue that remains is financial compensation for business owners who suffered significant losses as a result of the grounding.
Work has started locally on a class action, but there are also court proceedings under way in London to address the issue of compensation.
But heading into summer, it's business as usual for most locals.
"Bay of Plenty is the same old place it always ever was," resort manager Ms Crosby says. "It's the best it's ever been."
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5/10/2012 12:02:36 p.m.
KEITH GORDON, this is our time to do something about the environment and we did it with the Rena' I would personally thank you the owner of the vessel for paying for his damages, and its up to the government to clean the remains of the oil up..
5/10/2012 8:09:12 a.m.
Keith Gordon wrote:
The Rena was not NZ's worst maritime ecological disaster - the RMS Niagara sunk off Whangarei in 1940 caused far more damage and the wreck is still leaking oil - it possibly still contains more oil than ever on board the Rena - check story on Campbell Live
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