Rena-scale disaster 'likely to happen'

A Waikato University professor involved in research and the hands-on clean up after the Rena disaster, is heading to the beehive to ensure they are prepared if it happens again.

Professor Chris Battershill is the university's chair of Coastal Science, whose research group was given almost $1 million from the government, to monitor long-term environmental effects of the wreck.

At a public lecture this week, he spoke of the importance of everything from sea beds, currents, shipping routes and science in averting another Rena-scale disaster, which he said ''sadly, is likely to happen''. 

''We are better prepared now, but I don't think anybody can ever be fully prepared. There's always room for improvement,'' he said.

He said while the mobilisation of recovery technology is better, the entire process would have been faster if we had bigger tankers and suggested a partnership with Australia to invest in bigger vessels.

Also on the list is the importance of working with iwi, and the understanding and - if necessary - changing of shipping routes to minimise confusion and work with the currents.

''That must be something they're considering, it's just a matter of reducing risk. There are a lot of relatively simple things that can be done. The thing is to shamelessly pick out what other countries' have been doing,'' he said. 

''In saying that, Rena is becoming something of a new benchmark in regards to New Zealand's response, and there's a great deal of international interest in how we are handling that. Like using people instead of machines in the initial clean up, we didn't make a bad situation worse.

''But what needs to be done is being done and the follow up campaign is unprecedented for New Zealand. It's not perfect but it's a beginning.''