Rena's owners have proposed giving iwi groups and the Western Bay of Plenty community $3.6 million for the "adverse cultural effects" of leaving the wreck on Astrolabe Reef.

At the second day of the resource consent hearing to leave the Rena on Astrolabe Reef (Otaiti), counsel for the ship's owners, Matt Casey QC, revealed a total of $3.6 million had been set aside in the proposal for the four main "communities" identified as having direct or indirect ties to Otaiti - the people of Motiti Island, Te Arawa iwi, Tauranga Moana iwi, and the wider community of the Western Bay of Plenty. The figure was drawn from a comparison to the dredging of the Tauranga Harbour by the Port of Tauranga in which the "adverse physical and cultural effects" identified were mitigated by funds of about $2 million.

Mr Casey said the cultural and physical effects of leaving the Rena on Otaiti were on a smaller scale than the Port of Tauranga case. In the proposal, Motiti Island people - Mr Casey stressed this meant all people living on the island, not just iwi - would get $1.5 million as they were considered to be the group most affected. Te Arawa would get $1.25 million for community projects to benefit the people of Maketu. Tauranga Moana, not considered to be impacted as much as the two already mentioned, would get $250,000.

For the wider Western Bay of Plenty community, $440,000 would be allocated to support the surf lifesaving clubs and $160,000 would go towards research and education in marine-related fields.

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Aside from this proposed funding, six iwi groups have already brought confidential claims against the owner to reduce the effects of the grounding, ranging from $450,000 to $2.2 million. Mr Casey said those claims were settled at mediation.

"Some settled within minutes, on terms acceptable to the claimants. It is reasonable from these claims and settlements to conclude that a monetary value can be ascribed to the loss of or damage to customary and cultural values."

Mr Casey said during consultation with iwi and hapu groups, responses to compensation had been mixed and often changed over time. While some iwi groups felt ready to talk compensation, others felt it was their duty to oppose the resource consent.

He said more than $500 million had been spent bringing the wreck to its present state and full wreck removal was estimated to cost another $300 million, which would be paid mostly to international salvage operators.

Marine expert Paul Barter has been assessing water quality near the wreck.
Marine expert Paul Barter has been assessing water quality near the wreck.

Monitoring of water quality near wreck achieves 'excellent results'

The first of the expert witnesses for the Rena resource consent hearing was called yesterday.

Paul Barter, a senior marine scientist at the Cawthron Institute in Nelson, has been involved in assessing the ecological effects on water quality and ecotoxicity.

Mr Barter said this assessment involved investigating unrecovered cargo and determining whether or not it posed a risk to ecology as well as additional studies, field work, diving, and assessments in conjunction with ongoing clean-up and salvage operations.

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He said the monitoring programme set up after copper clove was discovered near the Rena wreck had achieved excellent results despite criticisms monitoring had not been "fit for purpose".

"The monitoring programme set up under that TAG [Technical Advisory Group] is an excellent example of adaptive monitoring and the results to date demonstrate this," he said. "Immediately after the grounding and break-up of the Rena, there was considerable uncertainty on the scale and spread of contaminants released."

Mr Barter said the adverse ecological effects appeared to be limited to the debris field, with minor or no effects seen on other parts of the reef.