Rena battle heats up

By Amy McGillivray

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MAMMOTH UNDERTAKING: Resolve salvage master Frank Leckey and his team are preparing to remove Rena's accommodation block in two pieces weighing 250 to 300 tonnes each.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
MAMMOTH UNDERTAKING: Resolve salvage master Frank Leckey and his team are preparing to remove Rena's accommodation block in two pieces weighing 250 to 300 tonnes each.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

Pressure is mounting for Rena's owners to remove the entire wreck from Astrolabe Reef.

On the second anniversary, the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend can reveal iwi have taken a four-pronged approach by lodging applications with the Waitangi Tribunal, Environment Court, High Court and Historic Places Trust to try to ensure the wreck is removed.

Rena Business Compensation Group spokesman Nevan Lancaster is also calling on the Government to enforce the Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) order that the wreck must be removed.

"The Maritime Transport Act says that it has to be removed but there doesn't seem to be any agency enforcing that. It's strange that they can make laws and the people who are supposed to follow them can ignore them," he said.

"MNZ stepped back too much and allowed a bunch of big wigs from Greece and Paris to come in and say, 'this is how it's done' ...

"Politically MNZ haven't had the back-up from the Government that they need to push this."

The most recent orders from MNZ, issued in August last year, stated the Rena continued to be a hazard to navigation and the environment and must be removed completely "unless otherwise agreed in writing by the director or by some other lawful means".

Spokesperson for Rena insurer, The Swedish Club, Hugo Shanahan told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend the owners still intended to lodge a resource consent application with the Environment Court for permission to leave the remains of the ship on the reef.

"We have been consulting with the wider community throughout 2013. There are some assessments that still need to be completed before this could happen, which is likely to be later this year or early in 2014."

The Environment Court has asked that the owners signal whether they intend to lodge an application by the end of November.

Mr Shanahan said there was provision in the Resource Management Act specifically for applications to leave a wreck where it sat.

Approval would depend on the court ruling that the wreck was no longer a hazardous ship, in terms of oil or cargo spilling out, or a hazard to navigation, he said.

A MNZ spokesman said the authority has had a supervisory oversight role in the salvage and wreck removal process to ensure the owners and insurers were meeting their legal obligations and the work they were doing was effective.

If an application for resource consent was lodged MNZ would make a submission, he said.

"The director may amend or remove these notices if the owner deals with the wreck through other lawful means, i.e. if the owner is granted a resource consent regarding the remains of the wreck but a resource consent does not automatically 'over rule' the notices".

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby was also disappointed with the slowness of the operation.

Resolve salvage master Frank Leckey said the exposed nature of the reef meant salvage work was unusually slow it is the longest project Resolve salvors have ever undertaken.

Rough weather in such an exposed location meant conditions were only suitable for work about 50 per cent of the time, he said.

"Normally, if this was a sheltered area we'd be done. It would usually take about two years if it was sheltered. The biggest problem for us is the weather hitting the reef," he said. "It's a lot more dangerous than we anticipated."

The RMG500, a specialist barge used to remove wrecks in Sri Lanka, arrived in Tauranga from Singapore on Tuesday in an effort to speed up the removal by allowing the accommodation block to be lifted out in two sections weighing between 250 to 300 tonnes each, Mr Leckey said.

"Before we were cutting it up into smaller pieces but because the weather was being such a hindrance to us, we decided to bring it over and have it here to pick up 250 tonne pieces.

"It's less time on the reef, it's less time for the divers," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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