Rena salvors focus on bow

By Sam Boyer

Helicopters are continuing to clear loads from containers on the bow of the Rena because conditions have not allowed the use of on-water cranes.

The priority for the Svitzer salvage team continues to be the removal of containers from the bow section and salvors have removed 29 packets of wood and nine tonnes of container lashing equipment from that area.

Sea conditions did not allow the barge Smit Borneo close enough to the wreck to transfer the containers by crane.

Divers are continuing to inspect the submerged stern section in order to assess how best to handle the next steps of the salvage operation, as well as surveying the surrounding reef to assess the easiest access points for Smit Borneo.

The first of the Rena containers located by sonar has been identified. Three more containers have been visually identified by Braemar Howells staff as empty and a check against the cargo manifest confirmed that none were carrying goods at the time of the Rena grounding. The containers were on the seabed between the wreck and Motiti Island. Salvor divers also identified a fourth container on the seabed near the wreck.

Teams of local volunteers are undertaking oil spill clean-up operations at Matakana Island for the next two days, about 30 oil spill responders are working on clean-up operations at Mount Maunganui and Leisure Island, and another team of oil spill responders is working at Kauri Point, where shoreline clean-up assessment teams identified some oil submerged under sea lettuce during the week. No oiled birds have been found by wildlife patrols over the past week.

Meanwhile, local iwi leaders have banded together to call for an independent inquiry into the grounding and handling of the Rena disaster.

Charlie Tawhiao, chairman for Te Moana A Toi Iwi Forum - which represents the interests of more than 16 iwi whose tribal waters, fisheries assets and people have been affected by the Rena - said the call for an inquiry wasn't a witch-hunt, but a chance to prepare and better protect the coastline.

"All our iwi want is answers so we can better plan and stop another disaster like this happening again. We take our role as kaitiaki for these waters very seriously and therefore our iwi, from Hauraki right along the coast to the East Cape, must have input into any terms of reference for such an inquiry," he said.

Last year the Green Party called for the independent inquiry, but to date the Government has not publicly committed to it. Mr Tawhiao said a Royal Commission inquiry would give the iwi, who have been meeting weekly since the Rena ran aground, assurance that the investigation would be done independently, without interference from the agencies and companies involved.

"This comes on the back of concerns we've had since the beginning that we've deliberately not addressed while we dealt with the immediate crisis. We feel an obligation not just to our people but to the community that's supported us. We've been asking the same questions," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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