Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Divers push for Rena wreck to remain

A helicopter and crane barge have started removing pre-cut scrap metal this week. Photo / Supplied
A helicopter and crane barge have started removing pre-cut scrap metal this week. Photo / Supplied

A diving group will tomorrow make a renewed call for the stricken cargo ship Rena to remain on Astrolabe Reef as an underwater tourist attraction.

Consultant Beca, contracted by the Rena's owners, has organised a conference with various Bay of Plenty groups as the next stage of the ship's salvage gets underway off Tauranga.

New Zealand Underwater Association president Tony Kuiumdjian said he would again raise the idea of keeping the wreck on the reef, which he believed could boost tourism in the Bay of Plenty.

"I don't think you can over-state the benefits for Tauranga, but I think a lot of people will come to dive the wreck from charter boats," he said. "We are pretty keen to see it remain."

The area is already home to the wreck of the vessel Taupo, a scenic dive site 12km north of Mt Maunganui.

Captain John Owen from the Swedish Club, the ship's insurers, told Newstalk ZB that developing the Rena as a dive destination was one option.

He had seen recent underwater images showing large fish habitats had already been established.

The revelation last week that leaving the ship on the reef was being considered - despite Maritime New Zealand's order for its full removal - has drawn mixedreactions.

Tauranga Moana Iwi Leaders' Group chair Awanui Black, surprised at the news, told the Bay of Plenty Times: "We want to ensure the information we have got is correct and if it is ... there will be intense discussions."

Meanwhile, salvors Resolve Salvage & Fire estimate stripping the wreck down to a metre below the mean waterline will take until early next year to complete.

Mr Owen said pre-cutting work on the internal structures began last week, while a helicopter and crane barge started removing pre-cut scrap metal this week.

The wreck's location made it "difficult and potentially dangerous" to conduct salvage operations.

Helicopters were expected to be used extensively as the front of the bow section is surrounded by shallow water, inhibiting use of a heavy lift barge.

The Rena's shell plating and ballast tanks will be left until the final phase of the project to act as a breakwater.

- NZ Herald

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