Buddy Mikaere: No putting shine on Rena proposal

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Wednesday's editorial in the Bay of Plenty Times is indicative of the thinking that characterises the proposal to leave the bulk of the wreck on the taonga reef Otaiti (Astrolabe).

The proposal to leave the wreck on the reef is purely about a major shipping company and its insurers endeavouring to save money.

To say that leaving the wreck in place is better than causing further damage to the reef for example is just pure self-interest.

So, too, is the apparent inconvenience of maintaining the exclusion zone and the specious argument that salvage work will put workers at risk.

Removing the wreck will involve maintaining the zone and most people would accept the inconvenience that might cause for the longer-term good of restoring the environment.

Making the salvage work safe is also achievable with the appropriate expertise and level of expenditure and we should not lose sight of that.

Accidents happen when there is pressure on to complete a job within a specified time period for contractual reasons.

That should not be the case here.

The editorial pointed to the potential opportunities to tourist operators that diving on the wreck might provide and mentioned the success of other sunken ships at dive sites in Northland.

However, it needs to be remembered that these wrecks were of vessels that had been properly prepared including being made environmentally neutral before being sunk.

Their success as marine drawcards also sprang from the fact that they had become artificial reefs where none had existed.

That was not the case with the Rena which had been negligently run aground on a pristine reef which already had a reputation as a high-value dive site and tourism attraction, not to mention its taonga value to the Maori people of Motiti.

Leaving the Rena wreck behind made a mockery of their perceived kaitiaki (guardianship) role .

There are no guarantees that the Rena can be made environmentally safe in the same way that other vessels have been and there is expert opinion available that would show that even the paint on the Rena hull and structure was a potential toxic contaminant.

The iwi position is to get the wreck gone and the cost of doing so should not be a consideration that concerns hapu, iwi and, in fact, all those in the wider Bay of Plenty community who care for our unique coastal environment.

Buddy Mikaere is an environmental consultant and is the co-ordinator of the hapu and iwi groups opposed to the proposal to leave the Rena wreck on Astrolabe Reef.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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