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Editorial: Rena should not be forgotten

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The container ship Rena eventually snapped in two while being bashed by rough sea on Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga.
The container ship Rena eventually snapped in two while being bashed by rough sea on Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga.

I remember the day Rena grounded.

Officials sent a short statement to the newsroom about 8.30am. Hours later, I was in the air flying over the broken cargo ship, watching oil spread out from Astrolabe Reef.

It is a sight seared into my memory. But five years on, it seems to me many people have forgotten about Rena. The owner and insurer spent money cutting the rusting wreck down to 1m below waterline and, in my view, the saying "out of sight, out of mind" fits well.

But it shouldn't.

Rena was one of New Zealand's worst maritime disasters and should never have happened.

As the days following the ship's grounding unfolded, so did its impact on the community.

People grabbed buckets and spades from home and began cleaning up the thick, tar-like globules that washed ashore, frustrated at what they perceived to be a lack of action from authorities.

The group of volunteers grew to a dozen, to 50, and to hundreds within hours. As the black waves washed up, more volunteers in white coveralls responded. The sight of them covering the shoreline is one I will never forget.

They were heroes. But it was heartbreaking at the same time.

The people of Motiti Island were among the worst affected. Their entire shoreline and daily food source was blanketed in thick, black oil.

All they wanted was for the ship to be removed. But they never got that wish.

Instead, the Rena broke in two and the stern sank even further on the reef. Any potential removal of the wreck is dangerous, if at all possible.

I always believed the ship should be removed. If salvagers can successfully remove the Costa Concordia, which ran aground in Italy in January 2012, why couldn't that have happened with Rena?

We can't change the past. But we can learn from it and be better prepared in future.

We need a better response plan should another disaster like this ever happen.

I can only hope this lesson has been learned by organisations in positions of power.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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