Rena wreck may still pose danger

The man tasked with exploring the future of the Rena says it is possible that dangerous goods may still be on board the submerged wreck, as public consultation meetings seeking community feedback get underway.

Captain John Owen, from insurers The Swedish Club, said the meetings were the community's opportunity to express their views on what they wanted to see done with the wreck.

"It's a high-profile case. It regularly gets front-cover stories and I want that to be a two-way process.

"It's not a matter of economic cost, it's about doing what's responsible in relation to the community and what is popular for the people of New Zealand."

Capt Owen said he hoped the meetings would help educate people on the reality of the options - complete removal of the wreck, leaving the wreck, or removing and containing cargo.

Whatever recovery option gained the greatest desire from people would be taken on board, if the feedback was raised at the meetings.

"I think the desire of the New Zealand people is they want the information to make that evaluation.

"We are aware of the Government's formal position, that the wreck has to go. But we are undertaking scientific and environmental studies and there is the cost of taking it away and the consequences of all that which could then be more significant than first thought."

This week, divers have found most of the 365 unrecovered missing containers inside the submerged wreck, in 30 to 35m of water. Capt Owen said about 200 containers remained inside.

"Many are broken down and fragmented.

"Many are quite badly damaged and broken," he said.

The rest are believed to have been lost in stormy conditions in January.

Capt Owen said the impact of the October, 2011, grounding forced the ship's hull inwards and with the wreck now on a 60 degree list, the containers had been shunted together in a mess of metal.

"It's a scrap yard. We just don't know what cargo is there."

Goods inside containers were being assessed for risk.

The team were still in the process of determining what, if any, dangerous goods were likely to be on board.

"Dangerous has to be seen in context to the environment, whether it's dangerous to the environment or dangerous to human life.

"We are undertaking a survey of perceived dangerous goods and what it means in terms of marine environment, such as what might happen if we were to disturb it."

The next meeting will be held at 11am to 4pm on Saturday, at Papamoa Sport and Recreation Centre, Gordon Spratt Reserve, Parton Rd.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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