Tauranga iwi remain adamant that the Rena wreck must be removed. Responding to the announcement from Rena's insurer The Swedish Club that it proposes leaving the rest of the wreck on Astrolabe Reef where it grounded in 2011, local Maori are united in signalling their opposition to the proposal.
Buddy Mikaere is cultural advisor to a large group of iwi seeking to ensure the Rena's owners and insurers clean up all environmental damage caused by the vessel's grounding. Mr Mikaere says that the lead for the iwi position has been taken from the people living closest to the wreck site, the people of Motiti Island.
"They have suffered and continue to be subject to the impact of the grounding", Mr Mikaere said. "The people of Motiti are supported in their stance by other "mainland" iwi and hapu groups. There is a wall of iwi support from Tauranga to Whakatane solidly against leaving the wreck behind."
Robert Makgill, the lawyer representing the group says it is important to recognise that the decision whether to leave the wreck behind is not The Swedish Club's decision to make.
"That decision is made under the RMA, and not by way of public announcement. Our scientists are very concerned by the paucity of information supplied by The Swedish Club to date. We trust that the RMA process will ensure the environmental, economic and cultural impacts of leaving the wreck behind are thoroughly examined. Iwi's view is that the only way to restore this pristine marine environment is to remove the wreck, safely and completely.
"Without doubt that's going to be a considerably more expensive option for The Swedish Club than their preferred option," says Mr Makgill "but it's the right thing to do, and one which international shipping lines have comprehensive insurance to cover. Iwi have no intention of simply rolling over and letting a large international corporation make a mess in New Zealand's backyard, leaving behind a legacy of a toxic waste. They intend to exercise their rights under the RMA as environmental guardians to make sure The Swedish Club does the right thing."
Mr Makgill adds that he was surprised by the timing of the announcement given that The Swedish Club's advisors had only just provided preliminary impact assessment documents for his client's consideration. "It really encapsulates The Swedish Club's approach to date, which has been to try and dictate terms to iwi and the New Zealand public."
Mr Makgill says "The reports are clearly very preliminary and we would expect to see a much more rigorous evaluation of options and effects before any application for a resource consent is sought. Our experts have been underwhelmed by the provision of information to date.