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Motiti Island residents reject development plan

Wednesday 18 Sep 2013 5:49 p.m.

The maritime mess of the MV Rena is once again stirring up feelings off the Bay of Plenty coast.

Residents on Motiti Island say they feel they are being blackmailed by the wrecked ship's owners and they point to the Costa Concordia as an example of what can - and ought - to be done.

Above the Astrolabe Reef there's no evidence of the wreckage which once covered the rocks, but beneath the surface, there's a mess of twisted metal and those living closest to it want it gone.

"If you do something like this environmental disaster that the Rena has been. You need to put it right, you need to fix it and you need to fix it how we want you to fix it," says island spokesman Buddy Mikaere.

But the Rena's owners and insurers would rather leave it. Recently they met with Motiti Island residents and devised a plan. In the words of their consultancy group the offer was to "offset the effects of the grounding".

The deal for the 27 island residents includes

  • Building a landing point for barges.
  • Creating a one-lane, all weather road to the airstrip.
  • Installing a new cellphone tower to improve communications.
  • Running an underground cable from the mainland to improve power supply.
  • Putting a permanent beacon on Astrolabe Reef.
  • Building a Rena memorial from the ship's anchor.

 In a statement, the Rena's owners told 3 News the intention of the projects, which were discussed with residents, is to try and find something of long-term benefit for the island.

But the projects would only be available should consent to leave the vessel there be granted. Residents have rejected the plan.

In meeting minutes obtained by 3 News, one Motiti Island representative said, "I feel like it's blackmail. If the wreck is removed there will be no restoration projects".

"It does look very much like 'If you leave the wreck behind, we'll give you this'. You could give it lots of names and blackmail might be one of them," says Mr Mikaere.

After seeing this week's amazing salvage of the Costa Concordia, Mr Mikaere says if that's possible, so is removing the Rena.

"The line from them has been that it's not a question of money - of course it's a question of money. That's so obvious it doesn't even really require any further comment," he says.

The Rena's owners have paid more than $26 million in compensation to the Government and more than $300 million on the salvage operation to date.

They have until the end of November to decide whether to lodge an application with the Environment Court to leave the ship there.

3 News

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