Rena: Public urged to keep away

By Paul Harper, Sharon Lundy

While salvage efforts continue aboard the sticken Rena, the job of cleaning up on the shore is being hampered by curiosity seekers. Photo / Katie Cox
While salvage efforts continue aboard the sticken Rena, the job of cleaning up on the shore is being hampered by curiosity seekers. Photo / Katie Cox

What you need to know:

* More than 95 tonnes of solid waste has been collected from beaches so far.

* 1000 people to hit the beaches for oil clean-up today.

* Mount Maunganui Beach to Maketu Point is closed to the public.

* Cleanup preparations are being made for Whakatane as the oil spreads

* 88 containers have now fallen off the Rena. 20 of these have washed ashore.

* 500 birds have been found as at yesterday afternoon

* Anyone wanting to help out with the clean-up effort can phone 0800 645 774, register online, or go to the visiting Mt Maunganui, Omanu or Papamoa Surf Clubs.

Bay of Plenty police have again asked the public to stay away from the area's oil-stricken beaches, with reports of some public vehicles getting in the way of clean-up efforts.

The officer in charge of police support to the Maritime NZ operation, Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair, said he understands the passion people feel about the area and their curiosity to see the situation for themselves, but is asking people not to travel to the area unless they really need to.

"There are a large number of people involved both in an official capacity and in the volunteer groups, and they need to be able to move around the area quickly and freely.

"In addition, some of the groups may need to move heavy equipment in and around the beach areas and some roads may need to be closed for these activities.

"We have already had one example where public vehicles were blocking an accessway in Papamoa and officials were unable to get onto the beach and remove waste."

Maritime NZ admits it could have acted faster

Maritime New Zealand today admitted it should have acted quicker in organising volunteers to help with the cleanup from the stricken Rena.

The container ship has leaked more than 350 tonnes of oil and 88 containers have fallen from it since it hit the Astrolabe reef off the coast of Tauranga on Wednesday last week.

Ten tonnes of oil have been removed and 1350 remain on board. Twenty containers have come ashore.

Oil is coating nearby beaches and at a media briefing this morning Maritime New Zealand director Catherine Taylor said about 2000 people had volunteered to help clean up.

"In any situation like this there are things that you learn from it and organising the volunteers was something which we have come to a bit later than we probably should have,'' she said.

"But now they're there, they're willing to go, it's going to be a long haul, they're going to need to be for a long time, so we don't need everybody today.''

Ms Taylor warned people not to touch the oil without protective gear as it was toxic.

One young woman helping with the clean up had used her cellphone, and the oil on her fingers had wiped the numbers off the faceplate.

It was also vital oil from the beaches was not spread to "clean'' areas, she said.

"At Papamoa Beach, in the carpark, you could see large globules of oil that had come off the beach.

"We don't want that contamination because what that means is that the oil will then go back into the system, through the stormwater drains, out to sea and be recirculated.''

People needed to wear protective gear and make sure their shoes were covered so they could discard the covering as they left the beach rather than traipsing it into the clean areas.

One Tauranga hotel had oil in its carpet, some people had it on their clothing "and you cannot get it out'', Ms Taylor said.

"It's a very serious issue. It's very toxic. Please keep the clean areas clean and listen to our advice,'' she said.

Cleanup planning was moving further east to Whakatane after reports oil was appearing on beaches there.

She encouraged people to keep volunteering and said although they may not have been called on today, they would be needed as the cleanup continued.

"There will be people needed in two weeks time to clean up oil so if we don't bring you in straight away, we will bring you in later.''

Unlikely oil will be pumped off today

MNZ salvage manager Bruce Anderson said the weather was this morning calm enough for salvors to board the vessel.

They would set up to take the oil off it and might get to the hull but it was not expected that any oil would be pumped out today.

"It's all about risk management,'' he said.

"It's complexity on top of complexity.''

1000 people take to beach cleanup

Meanwhile more than 1000 people are expected to hit Bay of Plenty beaches today as the clean up of oil from Rena gathers momentum.

Maritime New Zealand said predicted westerly winds today will push oil away from the beaches today however will extend the area of the oil spill response out to the east.

Oil from the vessel has washed up on around 60km of coastline, from Maketu to Mount Maunganui, however Newstalk ZB has now received reports the oil has now reached Whale Island, according to observations from a flyover this morning.

"Long road ahead"

Maritime New Zealand national on scene commander Nick Quinn said his team is in good shape and remains committed to getting the job done.

"I can tell by the activity and mood of our Incident Command Centre that our resolve is strong and morale is high.

"We are now coordinating a team of around 1000 people involved in operations on land, sea and air and covering areas like field operations, planning, logistics, wildlife recovery and community and iwi liaison. Everyone is working extremely hard to help out.

"Many have been here since the start and have put in some massive hours so we are looking to bring new people in to give others a break.

"We have a long road ahead of us so must ensure we maintain our maximum capability and capacity to respond," Mr Quinn said.

More than 2000 people had registered to volunteer by yesterday.

The first of these volunteers are out on the beaches today after receiving a briefing this morning at Omanu Surf Club.

A total of 95.45 tonnes of solid waste and 6 tonnes of liquid waste has been taken to the transfer station by 5pm yesterday.

Beach access from Mount Maunganui to Maketu Point, including the Maketu Estuary, remains restricted.

"It's tough - it's going to be very tough"

Two salvage teams of three were to be winched on the Rena this morning to resume pumping operations halted after rough seas hit the area.

Overnight, a platform was constructed to assist fuel recovery operations.

Salvage manager Bruce Anderson said the platform will be fixed to the port side of the vessel. As it is too dangerous to work inside the vessel, salvage crews will cut into the fuel tanks from the outside so the oil can be removed.

Port of Tauranga operations have resumed this morning, after the port was closed last night due to the risk posed to ships from containers floating in the water. Two ships were affected by the suspension - Australian Express and the Kota Jati.

So far 88 containers have been reported to have fallen off the ship and 20 of these have come ashore.

About 40 containers from the vessel are unaccounted for.

The public have been reminded not to touch the containers of any of the goods from within the containers.

Efforts to protect wildlife in the region continue, with experts pre-emptively taking rare birds into captivity.

Five dotterels were pre-emptively caught yesterday, taking the total to 13 dotterels in captivity, none of these are oiled. There are only about 1500 dotterels in existence.

Ten live oiled birds were found yesterday, bringing the total number of oiled live birds in the facility to 51.

On Motiti Island, eight little blue penguins were found including three chicks. The chicks are safe with no oiling, and are being taken to the wildlife centre where a creche is being set up for them.

A total of 500 dead birds had been identified by yesterday afternoon.


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