Rena debris washes up on Great Barrier Island

04:20, Apr 27 2012

Debris from the wreck of the Rena is reported to be washing up on Great Barrier Island.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said salvors Braemar Howells were investigating the reports and would fly over the island to make an assessment as soon as weather conditions were favourable.

Braemar spokesperson Grant Dyson said that if the Great Barrier debris was confirmed to be from the Rena, then, to the best of his knowledge it would be the furthest north the debris had moved.

The widening of the area being reached by the debris followed a storm at the start of April when waves up to 12 metres high pummelled the wreck of the cargo ship.

Sadly, it would be no surprise debris had travelled as far as Great Barrier, given it had already reached the Coromandel Peninsula, Dyson said.

Rena crashed into the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga in early October, and snapped in two in January


Braemar NZ operations manager Neil Lloyd said a fast response craft and clean up teams would be sent to deal with any debris on Great Barrier.

Great Barrier local board chairman Paul Downie said he first heard about the debris on Sunday.

It was the first time he had heard of anything from the Rena reaching the island.

The debris included small plastic beads, wheelbarrow trays, and packets of noodles. It had been seen at Medlands Beach on the east of the island and Whangapoa Beach to the north.

Southeast winds had been blowing for a couple of weeks, and that appeared to have gradually brought the debris to Great Barrier, Downie said.

"It's not massive quantities, but it is noticeable."

Clean up operations are continuing on the Coromandel Peninsula, while ways of collecting plastic beads have been finalised and are expected be put into action next week, as the weather improved.

The method developed involved using portable vacuum equipment which picked up material that was then put into a tank. Sand and other heavy material would sink to the bottom, leaving the beads floating on the surface, Dyson said.

The system was portable and versatile and could be used in small spaces.

MNZ said the helicopter removal of debris stockpiled on Matakana Island was also scheduled for next week, along with further efforts to clean up plastic beads from beaches on the island.

A total of 762 containers from Rena had been received ashore, made up of 661 removed from the decks and holds of Rena, and another 101 retrieved from the extended area around the wreck, and the shoreline.

This week, wreckage from the cargo ship had been recovered from more than 30 containers, including container sections and some cargo.

A further 40 containers were in pinpointed locations yet to be recovered and sonar surveys were continuing over a wide area.

Divers were cutting into parts of the submerged stern section of the Rena to gain access to containers for removal, MNZ said.