Eight years on, the remnants of Rena wreckage remain

By Regan Paranihi

It's been eight years since the Rena Wreck hit the coastal shores of Tauranga Moana but Mōtītī island locals are still dealing with the impact of the disaster.

Earlier this year,  Associate Minister for Transport, Julie Anne Genter proposed the installation of an insurance requirement for offshore oil and gas operators of up to $1.2 billion so  communities like Tauranga and taxpayers are not left with the cleanup bill.

In her proposal, the Minister outlined , "if a disaster was to occur it could have significant environmental, financial and cultural impacts and cost tens or even hundreds of millions to clean-up,"

A proposal eight yesr too late for the Tauranga iwi who fought for the removal of wreckage from their reef.

Genter clearly outlined "Communities and taxpayers shouldn't be left to foot the bill for clean-up of an oil spill like we saw with the Rena. It's only fair that operators are able to cover the clean-up cost of a worst-case scenario oil spill."

And It's a mishap she hopes will never be repeated.

The Rena spill devastated the eco-system, poisoned the kaimoana and killed thousand of seabirds.

A Mediterranean Shipping Company was respsonsible for the Rena grounding on the Astrolabe Reef.

Local kaumātua commented on the wreckage and demanded its removal from the ocean.

Previously Buddy Mikaere, Ngai Te Hapū, said "The responsibility lies with the insurance company and we want the insurance company to live up to its obligations to do all the things that we think they should have done like complete wreck removal."

But the cost to remove the wreckage was far too great for the company.

In 2013 the company fronted up to local iwi in an attempt to barter their way throught the process.

A company representative told iwi representatives gathered at the hui.

"This is the second most expensive wreck removal in the history in shipping," 

"Our thinking is that there should be a direct mitigation towards those iwis that have a direct connection to the reef."

The offer that was on the table changed the tide for some iwi.

"It's all to do with the Rena and the inducements that are being offered to various iwi groups who have decided that they are happy to sacrifice their cultural integrity and take those inducements," said Mikaere.

Ngāti Makino were one of the iwi who received compensation from the wreckage and Pia Bennet said it was because the wreck could be managed.

"We supported a consent that had attached to it particular conditions that would ensure the reef and the wreck were managed and the future was sustainable."

However, Ngai Te Rangi elder, Kihi Ngatai said money wasn't going to solve the problem.

"Money is just money, it will run out eventually."

While the Astrolabe Reef is still recovering from the wreck and sea life is yet to be spotted in the area, Mikaere said the problem may rise again.

"The Rena would have something like 20 plus tonnes of oil left in its fuel tank so that's going to come up at some time."

Scientists are using the evidence of the damage collected from the Rena wreck to prosecute the owner of the vessel that is responsible for the Rennell Island oil spill.