Rena wreckage may stay on reef

21:12, Feb 19 2013

The owner and insurer of the MV Rena have come up with a proposal to deal with the remaining parts of the wreckage - leave them on the reef.

The owner and insurer of the MV Rena, which struck Tauranga's Astrolabe Reef almost two years ago, yesterday announced dates for the next round of community consultation – including details of a proposal to deal with the remaining sections of the wreck. The clean-up has so far cost in excess of $275 million.

The proposal involves an application for consent under the Resource Management Act to leave the remaining sections of wreck and any debris on the reef in a way that is safe for the public, Captain John Owen of the boat's insurers, the Swedish Club, said.

Captain Owen, on behalf of the owner and insurer, said that the the proposal would provide for monitoring of the wreck's structural integrity, any remaining cargo and surrounding reef sediments.

It would support the future regeneration of the reef, he said.

Arrangements would be made to safeguard potential hazards of dangers over time. Locally employed contractors would run a debris management plan along the coastline and beaches of Bay of Plenty islands and mainland.

“Our work programme for the rest of the year will focus on addressing contaminants, the removal of debris from a 10,000 square metre area around the wreck and in due course, to make it safer for recreational diving,” Captain Owen said.

A full wreck removal would extend the period of time the exclusion zone around the Rena would need to remain in place. It would also involve greater disturbance and destruction of the reef environment. There would be major operational challenges, including risks to workers operating in volatile and dangerous conditions, he said.

Tauranga's Mayor Stuart Crosby said the proposal did not surprise him, but it was not his ideal out茄come.

“My preference has always been quite consistent, and my preference is for the Rena owners, and the salvors, and the insurance companies to remove the whole of the vessel – to allow the Astrolabe to return to its pristine condition,” he said.

“Failing that, is that if there is to be part of the Rena left then it should be made environmentally safe, and also there should be a very robust monitoring programme put in place, funded by the Rena owners through the insurers or whoever.”

He said the community's wishes were mixed, with some wanting the vessel removed and others wanting it to become a recreational diving spot.

Captain Owen said there was no no hazard to navigation involved in the proposal and the wreck parts should not be a threat to the marine environment.

“We will be seeking further feedback on the proposal from the Bay of Plenty community, which will include more hui with local iwi and hapu groups before a final decision is made,” he said.

If the consents were applied for and granted, a restoration package would be set up to provide funding for a range of community and iwi-based research scholarships as well as grants for environmental,

social, cultural and economic projects across the Bay of Plenty.

The public consultation sessions will be on February 26 and 28.