Churning seas hamper Rena clean up
Rough seas are hampering clean up efforts on the Coromandel, where debris from the stricken Rena has been washing ashore.
Swells as high as 12 metres are pounding the ship, and the seas are so rough clean up crews have no option but to stand on beaches and wait for debris to wash up.
''The problem we have is that it is white water all the way to the shoreline and we can't get our barges and other vessels out in the water to collect debris,'' said James Hannill, of salvor Braemar Howell.
Bits of wood, tiny plastic beads, packets of milk powder and noodles have washed up at Hot Water Beach since Thursday morning.
No oil has been spotted so far.
About 30 people swept Hot Water Beach today and collected about half a trailer load's worth of debris.
''The guys up here have done a great job,'' said Waikato Regional Council's Adam Munro.
''It is quite painstaking work as all the debris is tangled up in clumps of seaweed, due to the heavy swell.''
The relevant agencies will continue to monitor the situation, but said they relied on local knowledge to help them get the job done.
''Really, without the locals up here helping us and keeping an eye out for further debris or oil we could not get this clean up operation done,'' Mr Hannill said.
''Once we clean up a beach we move on, so the locals, who know the beach better than anyone, become the eyes and the ears of the clean up operation.
''We would really like to thank them for all their efforts so far.''
Contractors will now move south to Opoutere for a clean-up sweep there, with reports of noodles and timber coming ashore.
Volunteers will continue to clean up Sailors Grave beach, just north of Tairua.
There is a large amount of debris on the rocky coastline north of Tairua that cannot be accessed easily,'' a spokesperson for Thames-Coromandel District Council said.
"This will require a different approach to clean-up and contractors are working on a clean-up plan and contractors will continue to clean up the beaches as the tides dictate.''
Maritime New Zealand warned people to take care if using the beach or water off the Coromandel or Bay of Plenty.
Strong winds and rough seas were forecast to continue through until Sunday.
Boat skippers and vessel masters were reminded to take extreme case as debris from the wreck posed a significant risk to shipping.
An exclusion zone remained in place for the Astrolabe Reef, and navigational warnings continued to remain in force.
The public should phone 0800 645 774 to report any sightings of oil that may come ashore.
- Waikato Times