Mount gathering reflects on year since disaster

By Kiri Gillespie

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The bureaucrat who approved the illegal surveillance on Kim Dotcom and will now head an independent inquiry into the Rena disaster has the skills to carry out the review, a senior official says.

Former Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Murdoch was the acting director of the Government Communications Security Bureau when it began illegal surveillance of internet tycoon Dotcom. At a Rena anniversary gathering held in Mount Maunganui yesterday, Maritime NZ director Keith Manch said Mr Murdoch's role in the Dotcom saga would have no impact on the new inquiry, announced this week.

"He's one of our most experienced senior ex-public servicemen around," Mr Manch said.

The review will examine the MNZ response to the Rena incident and establish the factors that contributed to, or limited, its effectiveness.

It will involve discussions with MNZ staff, plus central and local government stakeholders. The review will not involve public submissions but is expected to be made public early next year.

"The best thing to do is to wait for his report and if you want to make judgment, then make judgment," Mr Manch said.

In response to concerns key community members had been left out of settlement negotiations, Mr Manch said the $27 million compensation agreement was between the Crown and the ship's owners.

Community members would have the chance to voice their concerns if or when a resource consent application was made to leave the wreck on Astrolabe Reef.

Recent sightings of oil washing ashore at Papamoa Beach were brought up but were dismissed by Resolve Marine Group master salvor Frank Leckey, who said he and his crew had been working on the wreck for weeks and had not seen any oil coming from Rena.

It was possible the oil could have come from other ships using the port, he said.

On Rena's future, Mr Leckey said his view would be to leave it where it was. "I think it would be a good thing," he said, referring to recreational water activity.

Tauranga Moana Iwi Leaders' Group chairman Awanui Black said the most important thing for local Maori was for Astrolabe Reef and surrounding environment to be restored to its pre-Rena state. "And I'm really hoping that means there's no wreck left there just because there's $10.4 million offered".

Mr Black said is was possible the $10.4m offered by Daina Shipping Company to the Crown if the Rena was left, as part of a $27.6m settlement deal, was a bribe.

He said local Maori had a special bond with the ocean. When oil washed up on beaches, for many Maori it was a travesty on several levels - not just because it looked bad.

"This is our home. We can't just up sticks and move somewhere else if we don't like it anymore. This is our home, our land."

Other speakers at the event yesterday signalled the day was not necessarily one of celebration, but rather a poignant mark in history.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council chief executive John Cronin said while everyone else remembered the Rugby World Cup, local people would recall Rena as the biggest event of the past year.

Deputy Mayor David Stewart said: "Let's not forget, there are no winners in this."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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