Most of us will remember it. It was a maritime disaster that had a devastating impact. On October 5, 2011, the Rena struck Astrolabe Reef off the Bay of Plenty coast – spilling oil and debris into the sea. Today, the people of Motiti Island say they still find oil and plastic beads on their beaches. But that's not the only issue they face. A group the hapu set up to fight for the Rena's full removal has itself run aground after years of court action. Now their fight is finally over. And it's come at a devastating price.
A group representing a Bay of Plenty hapu that fought to have the Rena's remains removed from Astrolabe Reef is devastated after being placed into liquidation.
Ngai Te Hapū has stood firm in its desire for the wreck to be removed and has been locked in a battle against the ship's owner and insurer since the 2011 grounding.
But court documents show Ngai Te Hapū Incorporated, set up to represent the hapu's interests in proceedings involving the ship's grounding, has been put into liquidation.
The society failed to pay $11,150 owed to the Astrolabe Community Trust - a group set up by the Rena's owner Daina Shipping Company and insurer The Swedish Club.
After years of legal proceedings, on June 1, 2018, the High Court ordered the payment, and the trust has pursued it since. On July 5, 2018, a co-debtor paid $9000 but Ngai Te Hapū Incorporated has been unable to pay the remaining $2150.
The trust then successfully sought a High Court order to place the hapu society into liquidation in February.
Spokesman Buddy Mikaere told the Bay of Plenty Times the incorporated society had no assets.
The liquidation means Ngai Te Hapū has lost its legal status and can no longer enter any legal transactions.
"We are quite devastated by the whole thing."
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In the years since the cargo ship's October 5, 2011, grounding, the ship's owner offered Motiti Island residents improvements such as an all-tide landing point for barges, a cellphone tower, upgraded access to an airstrip and a 10m-long piled wharf - all on the condition hapu withdraw opposition to leaving the wreck on the reef.
The hapu refused, hoping their one request would be honoured, eventually.
"You always go into these things in the belief that you are not going to lose ... that's just how it has panned out," Mikaere said.
"It's very sad."
On June, 27, 2018, the High Court dismissed a Ngai Te Hapū appeal against a May 2017 Environment Court ruling that granted conditional consents to abandon the wreck.
Mikaere said Ngai Te Hapu would not appeal the High Court ruling.
The incorporated society represents people living on and from Motiti Island, about 7km from the reef, offshore from Tauranga. The Rena wreck and remaining contents sit on the reef up to 1m below the waterline.
"These people living on the island, they still see the oil coming up on the beaches. They still see those little plastic beads ... But I think the most damaging thing has been the division that the whole thing created amongst different iwi groups. In some ways, that's still not healed."
Cash offers, including a rejected offer of $750,000 to Patuwai Tribal Committee, were made if local iwi also withdrew opposition to leaving the Rena on the reef. Some iwi, such as Te Arawa, took the cash. Others did not.
Mikaere feared a similar incident would happen again and wanted the Government to "step up" to international agreements such as the Nairobi International Convention, which put the responsibility of clean-up and wreck removal on the ship owners and insurers.
In a written response to Bay of Plenty Times , an Astrolabe Community Trust spokesman said the trust was under the impression the iwi had a large membership and it had received support including funding from other sources.
"If the society [hapu] or its supporters wished to keep the society alive, they could have taken steps to avoid the liquidation. At one of the preliminary hearings, it was indicated that the society might come up with the money. They could have done so right up until the time of liquidation."
In 2015, the Astrolabe Community Trust applied to become a charity. This was declined because its primary purpose did not demonstrate it would provide a self-evident public benefit.
Te Arawa kaumatua Sir Toby Curtis said he was saddened by the news.
"Things like that should never have happened, when all they were doing was trying to protect what they believed was something they were doing on behalf of future generations and for the good of the country."
Stuart Crosby, Tauranga mayor at the time of the Rena grounding, said Ngai Te Hapū "should hold their heads up high" despite the outcome.
"Because without them, and others, pushing for as much of the wreck to be removed as possible, we would have ended up with much more left there."
Crosby said he, as mayor at the time, always supported full wreck removal.