A crane barge has made it out to the stricken Rena, the first step in resuming container removal which came to a halt after the ship split in two in terrible weather last weekend.

Improved weather conditions meant the barge could make its way back towards Rena, but it has not yet connected to Rena and a series of anchors, Maritime New Zealand said.

Despite the barge making it out to the Astrolabe Reef, where Rena ran aground on October 5, it could take some time before container removal would resume or divers could undertake a survey of the sunken section.

"The dynamic sea state and the relative proximity of the reef below make it difficult to indicate any timing for this next stage of container salvage," national on-scene commander Rob Service said.


The sea swell, which has hampered rescue efforts since the aft section split off and the majority of it sunk last weekend, was expected to reduce to 1.5 metres tomorrow and 1 metre on Monday.

Meanwhile, boaties have been warned to stay off the water unless it is necessary.

Debris floating in the water has spread, and today has been spotted around Volkner Rocks in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

On Monday boaties were advised to stay off the water in western Bay of Plenty because of the large amount of debris in the water, and today that warning was extended to cover the eastern Bay of Plenty.

Any unnecessary voyages should be avoided, harbourmaster Brian Spake said.

"If vessels in the eastern Bay of Plenty do go out, they should maintain a proper lookout by sight and sound and travel at slow speed while transiting local waters," he said.

Boaties should not be on the water at night, he said.

A three nautical mile exclusion zone also remains around the Astrolabe Reef.

Aerial observation flights to Rena this morning confirmed no change to the state of the wreck, and there appeared to be less oil leaking from the vessel. Waihi Beach is free of containers, with 17 taken away for processing.

Work continues to recover the 11 containers on Matakana Island.

Fresh oil has been found at Papamoa East and small spots of oil stretching over 2km of coastline, have been found by shoreline clean-up teams.

One oiled little blue penguin was collected from Papamoa Beach last night, and one recovered offshore from Hahei today.