Frigate's final journey draws near

By Tony Gee

The charitable trust hoping to sink the decommissioned Navy frigate Canterbury in the Bay of Islands is confident the old warship can be towed north early next month.

After delays in gaining a resource consent to sink the 3000-tonne vessel as a diving attraction, the Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust now hopes to get approval from the Northland Regional Council before Christmas.

It has had to satisfy the Department of Conservation's concerns about marine biodiversity if the ship is sunk in Deep Water Cove, at the entrance to the Bay of Islands.

DoC is worried about the effect the wreck might have on marine life and dolphins.

Trust spokesman Kelly Weeds said yesterday that after a meeting between the department, the regional council and the trust, DoC had indicated that most of its concerns were satisfied.

Commercial diving operators will face strict rules to minimise any adverse risks to the marine environment. A list of proposed conditions was being put together and if the department withdrew its objections a public hearing of the consent application would not be necessary, Mr Weeds said.

Only one other objection had been lodged and that objector had said that if DoC was satisfied, the objection would be withdrawn.

The trust now hopes a favourable decision can be delivered by December 22.

"Things are pretty positive," Mr Weeds said, "and the tug is ready to go [to tow the Canterbury from Devonport Naval Base]".

The 113m vessel has to be commercially cleaned before it can leave. The journey north to Opua, where it will be stripped and prepared for scuttling next year, is expected to take two days.

Mr Weeds estimates it will be July or August before the Canterbury is sunk.

When it hits the seabed, it will add to a Northland east coast dive trail which already includes the sunken former Navy ships Tui and Waikato lying off the Tutukaka Coast and the former Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior off Matauri Bay.

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