Rena: Volunteers, businesses come together for clean-up

By Kiri Gillespie, Bay of Plenty Times staff

The clean-up had so far cost around $4 million. Photo / APNZ
The clean-up had so far cost around $4 million. Photo / APNZ

There has been the disbelief. There has been the sadness and anger. Now comes the time of acceptance and action, and through the efforts of volunteers and businesses lending a hand to clean up after Rena, spirits in the Western Bay community have been lifted.

The increasing number of volunteers cleaning up the beaches have been inundated with home baking by residents while businesses have donated what food they can to feed the masses.

Papamoa Surf Lifesaving Club lifeguard Sue Matthews has lived in the beachside town for 28 years and normally uses the beach every day. Yesterday, she was at Papamoa Beach with gumboots and Tyvek suit at the ready.

Ms Matthews said she had a special connection with the beach. "I think all New Zealanders have. We all live so close to the sea, wherever you go in the country, you're not that far from the sea.''

Ms Matthews said she was devastated to see the sheets of oil marring the normally pristine beachfront. When she heard a Maori man iterate his response to the devastating impact of oil on local beaches and his words perfectly summed up how she felt.

"He said `don't cry for us, cry for the land'. I thought that was so true. We don't cry about our property. It doesn't mean anything. This is different.''

But Ms Matthews's initial sadness was lifted by the banding together of so many volunteers and the people who donated food and drink to feed them.

"I think people are genuinely community spirited but it takes something like this to bring it out.''

Green MP Catherine Delahunty was among the volunteers being trained at Papamoa yesterday.

She said the Rena disaster has taken people on a grief-like process.

"You have the disbelief, then the sadness and then the anger. Then there's the acceptance - the `right, what are we going to do about it'. I think that's where people are at now. The next stage is learning, the `what do we learn from this so it won't happen again'.

"Right now, for the community, the most important thing is that you can actually do something about it, and people are. Just look at all of this,'' she said.

Milo, Maggi and Pak'n Save trailers were offering food and drink from the car park while volunteers in white ponchos munched on barbecue and others lined up for training.

The Big Smoke BBQ Company was serving up steak and sausage lunches with the help of several businesses who donated meat, fruit, chips, muesli bars, soda, water and prepacked lunch bags.

"We all use the beach around here, and I have something that we can use to feed the volunteers, so why not? said Mike Jefferies of the Big Smoke BBQ Company.

Mr Jefferies thought of trying local businesses to see if they could help by donating meat and other supplies. "I thought it would be really tough asking all these companies but they were awesome with the whole thing.''

Dozens of other businesses have joined, doing what they can to help. Another barbecue was held at Maketu by a radio station while several baking runs have netted home baked goodies at most beach bases.

70 tonnes pumped out

Just over 70 tonnes of oil had been pumped from the Rena by 5.30pm today.

A crew of three salvage team members would remain on board overnight to continue pumping as weather permitted, Maritime New Zealand said in a statement.

A second pump was added today to hasten the removal of oil from the stricken cargo ship before expected bad weather arrives in the Bay of Plenty.

The vessel, which is stuck on Astrolabe Reef on the Tauranga coast, is now listing at a 21-degree angle.

A crew of nine salvage workers began pumping the estimated 1300 tonnes of oil aboard the ship yesterday.

WeatherWatch said today that while more rough weather was moving in to the Bay of Plenty tonight, it would not be as bad as last week's.

The Rena was badly damaged in high seas last week - around 350 tonnes of oil leaked from it and more than 80 containers were lost overboard.

WeatherWatch said swells were expected to push in from the north but would turn more westerly tomorrow. The strongest winds would be overnight tonight and during tomorrow and Wednesday.

A combination of the swells and strong winds could see debris floating south to southeast and possibly east.

Swells around the Rena would peak at 2-3m over the next 24 to 36 hours but the winds and swells should ease after Wednesday, the forecaster said.

Visitors don't let disaster ruin holiday

The shipping disaster was not enough to keep a Wellington family from enjoying their first holiday to Tauranga.

Mat Kyne and Helen Orange decided not to change their travel plans when they heard the news that the Rena had grounded on Astrolabe Reef.

"There was no question of cancelling our holiday,'' she said. ``We had never been here as a family. We were all looking forward to coming to Tauranga.''

They arrived last Monday with their children Zoe and Austin and were just in time to walk along an extremely "atmospheric'' Mount Main Beach before it was closed after globs of oil started to wash ashore.

The family was among a sprinkling of people who ventured on to Mount Main Beach yesterday after they heard a radio report that the beach had been reopened.

Most people stayed off the beach, perhaps confused by the big sign that continued to say that the beach was closed. The only thing they missed out on yesterday was that Zoe and Austin could not paddle and splash in the shallows because the surf remained out of bounds. "We probably would not have gone for a swim anyway,'' Ms Orange said.

Their week-long holiday ended today.

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