Mussel boats called in to help with Rena cleanup

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 13:00 11/10/2011

Mt Maunganui beach clean-up

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Mussel farmers are putting their seaman skills to use mopping up toxic oil off the Tauranga coast.

Greenshell New Zealand now has three Coromandel-based boats on site after the Union Beach motored south last night at the request of Maritime New Zealand.

Clumps of sticky, black, smelly oil are now polluting the beach at Mt Maunganui, one of the country's most popular holiday spots, after the grounding of the Rena container ship last Wednesday.

More oil is expected to wash up near Papamoa within the next 24 hours amid worsening weather conditions.

Greenshell operations manager Brent Parker and his crew of local workers had to first clear the decks of mussel-processing equipment such as the "tumbler" to make way for an oil absorbent spin boom to be welded in place on arrival.

Union Beach joins the Northern Quest and Phoenix which joined the cleanup operation on Saturday.

Mr Parker said the deteriorating weather could be an issue.

"Talking to the guys in the Port of Tauranga we'll only be working in under 25 knots of wind. The other two boats have already done a couple of days cleaning up and searching for oil. They've found bits and pieces but nothing significant." Coromandel locals crew each boat and they could be on the job for up to two weeks.

"Hopefully if they get it all pumped off we'll clean up what's left over and head home," Mr Parker said.

Greenshell owner Peter Vitasovich said the job wasn't about money, but about protecting the environment. "Imagine if that oil does spill, there's potential risk all up the coast. Our first farms are in Port Charles and straight up to Great Barrier Island. I think for NZ that can't happen."

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- Waikato Times

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