November 2011: Last of pumped oil brings relief

By John Cousins

Everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief when pumping of almost all the heavy fuel oil aboard the grounded container ship Rena was finished.

The milestone was reached on November 13, triggering an outpouring of joy from people who relied on the Bay's beaches and fisheries for their livelihood.

Papamoa Progressive Association chairman Steve Morris simply called it phenomenal news.

More good news followed when the next phase of the salvage operation swung into action: The removal of the 1280 containers. The expected snail's pace turned out to be more like a tortoise, with the unloading of 145 containers in the first two weeks actually being twice the pace originally expected.

The beaches re-opened to the public on November 16, six weeks to the day after the Rena went up on Astrolabe Reef. By that time, the cost of the disaster had reached $15.5 million.

The last significant Rena news event for the month belonged to the first batch of little blue penguins rescued from the clutches of the oil. Forty-nine penguins created an irresistible spectacle when they were released into the surf next to Mount Main Beach.

Only marginally more interesting than the penguins thanks to New Zealand First was the predictable outcome of the General Election in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Tauranga's MP Simon Bridges survived accusations of cowardice for not attending public election meetings to be returned with an even bigger majority than 2008. It was also a romp for Bay of Plenty MP Tony Ryall who took two out of every three votes cast in his electorate, trouncing his nearest rival by 16,720 votes.

The emergency of Mana Party crushed the dominance of the Maori Party in the Waiariki electorate, although Te Ururoa Flavell continued to hold the seat by a comfortable majority.

There were no surprises when National held Coromandel, this time with the new face of Scott Simpson. New Zealand First List MP Brendan Horan got into Parliament on the coat tails of Winston Peters who made a characteristic comeback after being cast into the political wilderness in 2008.

All Black utility back Sonny Bill Williams will be donning a Chiefs jersey for next season's Super 15 tournament, meaning locals should be able to see him play at Baypark. He turned down potentially lucrative offers to stick with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union.

The riches offered rugby players contrasted sharply with the increasing number of have-nots occupying the bottom rung of New Zealand society. Tauranga Community Foodbank's new chairman Mike Baker was shocked at seeing children so hungry that they ripped into a loaf of frozen bread as soon as their mother returned to the car with a food parcel.

An environment court hearing was left in no doubt about the feelings of Tauranga Maori towards deepening the harbour when a hikoi ended in an outburst of emotions outside Hotel Armitage.

The appeal and hikoi represented a clash of Maori cultural, spiritual and environmental values with the commercial interests of the Port of Tauranga, which seeks to deepen the shipping channels to accommodate a new generation of larger container ships.

Police launched a homicide inquiry after Gary Clayton Kimura, 44, died on his birthday from head injuries he sustained in a brutal attack at his home on October 5.

He died in Tauranga Hospital on November 16. Mr Kimura built up Gary's Tyres from a business he established from scratch in his garage.

A man armed with a crowbar went on a $15,000 rampage and terrified staff at the Western Bay of Plenty District Council offices near Barkes Corner. Ronald Klass Setz entered the reception area and destroyed five computers, an Eftpos machine, a phone and 11 panes of glass - including reinforced glass front doors into the customer service area and glass panels in interview rooms.

He then waited for police in the car park.

Flakes of blue paint embedded under the scales of two snapper led to the arrest of Tauranga fisherman Ross Ian Harvey. It was the first New Zealand investigation using CSI-styled forensic paint sampling and was traced to a fishing vessel skippered by Mr Harvey.

About 1000 snapper were found floating 4km north of Ohiwa Harbour.

He pleaded guilty to being a party to the dumping of legal size snapper by West Coast Fishing Limited and fined $27,000.

A $2.2 million property deal saw the former Guinness Appliance shop in 1st Ave sold to Lindsay and Lisa Chan, owner/operators of The Gym.

The Chans intend to shift from the corner of Cameron Rd and 7th Ave and reopen as a fitness and child care centre.

An overstayer family faces the agonising decision of whether to leave their Tauranga-born son in New Zealand or take him back with them to the slums of Punjab in India. Pooja Kapila was so desperate to avoid what she said was the death sentence of being returned that she refused to sign documents presented to her by Immigration New Zealand at her Te Puke home.

It led to an investigation into allegations that two police officers forced her to put her thumb print on deportation travel documents.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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