Astrolabe Reef has suffered enough and the Rena wreck should be left as it is, Motiti resident Nepia Ranapia says.
Mr Ranapia is a senior member of Korowai Kahui o Nga Pakeke o Te Patuwai, an umbrella group of elders that sits within a traditional tribal committee.
Mr Ranapia addressed the panel hearing an application for a resource consent to leave part of the MV Rena on Astrolabe (Otaiti) Reef on Thursday. He said Korowai, one of the groups of tangata whenua of Motiti and its surrounding rocks and reefs, was under obligation to ensure the reef suffered no further physical or spiritual harm.
"We say that Otaiti [Astrolabe Reef] has suffered enough and that the conditions of the consent proposed by the applicant will be sufficient to ensure that the mauri [life force] of the reef is respected. The elders say that removal of the final remains of the Rena is unnecessary and could cause more spiritual harm than good."
Mr Ranapia said while he was a previous chairman of the Te Patuwai Tribal Committee, there had been a split between elders and younger members of the tribe over their differing stances of what should happen to the wreck.
"This is a matter of sadness to me and to other elders, but it is not unusual for there to be disagreement in our wider whanau. The elders continue to provide guidance and leadership on matters of spirituality, culture and heritage, which happen to be bound up in the issues of the Rena. Ultimately, the elders are concerned with what is best for Otaiti and for Motiti."
His people had helped with the clean-up at Motiti and were later asked to help with issues confronting salvage workers.
"We agreed to assist by performing our traditional rituals at the reef. Once the karakia were completed, the taha wairua became whaka noa. By this, I mean that the spiritual kaitiaki (guardian) of that site had been put at ease ... I was aware of the presence of kaitiaki on Otaiti during that visit, as I have been on previous visits to the reef."
Mr Ranapia said the grounding of the Rena had caused the mauri of the reef to be harmed and diminished, but that had been addressed in several positive ways. He said the mauri of Otaiti was stronger now than it was in the first months after the grounding. Mr Ranapia's statement wrapped up the second week of the hearings. Next week will begin with statements from Te Patuwai and Ngati Awa.