What to do with the Rena wreck?

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Bay of Plenty residents will be able to have their say on what they want to happen to the remaining wreck on Astrolabe Reef and the seabed.

The Rena's owners and insurers have announced two open days will be held in Tauranga and Papamoa to present the preliminary findings from a series of independent expert reports.

These will be held in Tauranga on October 30 and in Papamoa on November 3.

Captain John Owen, senior claims manager for insurer The Swedish Club, said no decision had been reached about what to do with the wreck.

He said the owners and insurers wanted community input into the safest and most practicable way to deal with the remains of the ship.

Captain Owen and several independent technical specialists involved in preparing the reports would attend the meetings.

The preliminary reports review the impacts resulting from different disposal options across a range of effects, including health and safety, water quality, ecology and fisheries, recreation and tourism and cultural and social values.

"Our approach to the ongoing studies has been to understand how the marine environment can best recover by causing the least amount of further damage,'' he said.

"The baseline from which we are working is the prospect of complete removal of the wreck to the extent that this is safe and practicable.''

Expert risk assessments were continuing but Captain Owen said it was already clear that full wreck removal would be a hazardous operation, posing both health and safety risks as well as environmental damage to the reef and sea bed.

Full wreck removal would also almost certainly result in a large scale release of debris and contaminants, he said.

Two options have been ruled out: leaving the wreck as it was; and removing the accommodation block but leaving the rest of the wreck.

Another option involved leaving what will remain of the wreck once Resolve has cut the bow section to 1m below water level, while also removing or securing as much of the remaining cargo as practicable.

This will involve remedial work to make the wreck safer for the environment and recreational divers.

Any decision to leave some of the wreck there would require resource consents and would include ongoing monitoring of the condition of the wreck and the reef environment, appropriate responses to the release of any cargo, and continuing to manage containers and debris under a Debris Management Plan.

Captain Owen said that before a decision was made, the owners and insurers would consider how to address ongoing effects through mitigation or offset, potentially by way of a community fund to provide for environmental improvements and community advancement.

He urged the Bay of Plenty community to engage with the owners and insurers so the best possible decision could be reached.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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