Removing all of the cargo ship MV Rena from the Astrolabe Reef could take a decade.
A conference with interested parties hosted on behalf of the Rena's owners also heard salvaging all the wreck - as ordered by Maritime New Zealand - could also have detrimental environmental effects. Owners Costamare and insurers The Swedish Club have left open the possibility of leaving most of the wreck in the water.
A decision is likely next year after the salvage's just-begun second phase, stripping the wreck to a metre below the mean waterline.
Motiti Island resident Don Wills, who attended the meeting, said he had been told a total salvage operation could last between five and 10 years.
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He had opposed divers' calls to keep the wreck as an underwater attraction, which he said could raise serious safety problems, but now thinks leaving most of the wreck was the most acceptable option.
"If we don't compromise, that reef won't be available for recreation for another five to 10 years."
The monthly salvage bill following the Rena's grounding last October had run to $13.2 million and as of last month The Swedish Club had spent more than $200 million.
"It would be good to have the thing gone regardless of costs, but I won't live long enough to dive or fish at the reef ever again if it goes that way," Mr Wills said.
Labour has, meanwhile, hit out at the Government for having failed to introduce legislation protecting taxpayers from the costs of another environmental disaster.
A document from Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, obtained under the Official Information Act, revealed the Rena's eventual total cost to the Government could be around $50 million.