Dylan Thorne

Dylan is the deputy editor of the Bay of Plenty Times.

Editorial: Rena can do some good for our area

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The Rena would attract marine life.On the subject of whether or not the Rena wreck should be left on the Astrolabe reef, I'm of the view that the region should at least try to take one positive from this disaster.

As we reported yesterday, Rena's owner and insurer faces a fight from local iwi over a proposal to leave the ship's remains on Astrolabe Reef.

The reaction follows the Swedish Club announcing it would seek resource consent to leave the wreck at sea, as long as it was safe for the public and supported the reef's future regeneration.

This was to be expected. Leaving the wreck on the reef is a much cheaper option for the owners and insurers, saving millions of dollars in salvage costs.

Part of me would like to see the company shoulder the full cost of removing the wreck from the reef to make amends for one of the worst maritime disasters in New Zealand's history.

But full wreck removal will extend the period of the exclusion zone, involve greater destruction of the reef and present risks to workers in volatile and dangerous conditions.

Iwi oppose the plan, citing concern about future debris washing ashore from containers believed to be still inside Rena's hull. The reef has cultural and spiritual significance to iwi and this should not be dismissed.

However, leaving it on the reef also presents a unique opportunity for tourism operators.

If left where it is, the Rena would attract and nurture marine life in years to come, fishing and dive charter operators say.

You don't have to look too far afield to see how dive wrecks can be a major tourism boost.

In Northland, the sunken naval ships Waikato and Tui, have become major drawcards for visiting divers and successful charter businesses have sprung up to cash in on the market.

The major difference between those wrecks and the Rena is that their sinkings were planned and were clear of debris when they sank below the surface.

The obvious rider to the proposal to leave the Rena on the reef is that the owners and insurers need to be able to show that it presents no danger to the public, would support the reef's future regeneration and would not pose a hazard to navigation.

It also needs to guarantee that the wreck poses no threat to the marine environment and that all possible contaminants have been removed.

As long as these conditions are met, then the plan to leave the Rena on the reef and the possible economic benefits of doing so should be explored.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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