Owners of the Rena have confirmed they will seek resource consent to allow the wreck's remains to be left on the Bay of Plenty seabed.
Senior representatives of the Rena's owner and insurer will be back in New Zealand this week meeting with Iwi and community representatives to communicate their final decision to lodge an application for resource consents to seek to allow the remains of the Rena where they lie.
Lodgement is expected between the end of March and May 2014. The exact date is uncertain due to significant difficulties with the planned removal of the accommodation block, which despite many months of preparation has not yet progressed due to marine conditions at Astrolabe (Otaiti) reef this summer.
Commenting on behalf of the owner and insurer, Captain John Owen, of the Swedish Club said: "The decision was reached after extensive engagement over 18-months on the future of the wreck with iwi and representatives of the Bay of Plenty communities, including several extensions to Resolve Salvage & Fire's scope of work since July 2012.
"The application will include an assessment of environmental effects and will provide interested parties with a comprehensive body of information on the proposal for the future of the wreck - including proposed conditions in relation to environmental monitoring, wreck access and shore management, if consent is granted.
"However, our main concern at present is the removal of the accommodation block and the fact that salvors have not been able to find even one of the two weather windows needed to perform this operation safely.
"This current situation only further confirms the technical advisors' views of the challenges associated with the practicality, safety and duration of any further wreck-removal works," Capt Owen said.
Resolve Salvage & Fire remains on standby to start removing the accommodation block, but in the meantime have started preparations to cut and remove an approximate 590 tonne piece of wreckage that will allow them to access and recover the last remaining container of plastic beads in the wreck.
Further clearing of debris from within and around the wreck will then start back-up, which may involve a New Zealand-based specialist contractor.
"Once complete, this work will reflect an operational spend in excess of NZD $350 million over the more than 900 days since the casualty. It is intended to leave the wreck in an environmentally benign state, whereby the occupied area of the reef (less than 2 per cent) can continue to rejuvenate over time," he concluded.
Further detail about the consent application and assessment information will be communicated when the application is lodged with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. Information will also be made available from the Rena Project and Regional Council websites. Interested parties will be able to make submissions on the application as part of the consent process.
The owner and insurer have undertaken to continue an open and active engagement with iwi and the Bay of Plenty communities throughout the resource consent application process.