Tauranga iwi are set to fight the Rena's owners and insurers move to leave the remainder of the Rena wreck submerged beneath the surface on the Astrolabe Reef.
The Rena's owners and insurers announced on Monday they intend to lodge a Resource Consent Act application to leave the submerged stern section of the wreck on the reef.
The Rena remains on Astrolabe Reef on February 18.
Iwi cultural advisor Buddy Mikaere says iwi are seeking to ensure the Rena's owners and insurers clean up all environmental damage caused by the vessel's grounding.
Buddy says the lead for the iwi position has come from those living closest to the wreck – the people of Motiti Island.
“They have suffered and continue to be subject to the impact of the grounding,” says Buddy.
“The people of Motiti are supported in their stance by other ‘mainland' iwi and hapu groups. There is a wall of iwi support from Tauranga to Whakatane solidly against leaving the wreck behind.”
Robert Makgill, the lawyer representing the group, says it is important to recognise that the decision whether to leave the wreck behind is not insurers The Swedish Club's decision to make.
“That decision is made under the RMA, and not by way of public announcement,” says Robert.
“Our scientists are very concerned by the paucity of information supplied by The Swedish Club to date. We trust that the RMA process will ensure the environmental, economic and cultural impacts of leaving the wreck behind are thoroughly examined.
“Iwi's view is that the only way to restore this pristine marine environment is to remove the wreck, safely and completely. Without doubt that's going to be a considerably more expensive option for The Swedish Club than their preferred option.
“But it's the right thing to do and one which international shipping lines have comprehensive insurance to cover. Iwi have no intention of simply rolling over and letting a large international corporation make a mess in New Zealand's backyard, leaving behind a legacy of a toxic waste.
“They intend to exercise their rights under the RMA as environmental guardians to make sure The Swedish Club does the right thing.”
He's surprised by the timing of the announcement given that The Swedish Club's advisors have only just provided preliminary impact assessment documents for his client's consideration.
“It really encapsulates The Swedish Club's approach to date, which has been to try and dictate terms to iwi and the New Zealand public,” says Robert.
“The reports are clearly very preliminary and we would expect to see a much more rigorous evaluation of options and effects before any application for a resource consent is sought. Our experts have been underwhelmed by the provision of information to date.”
Captain John Owen of the Swedish Club said yesterday the remainder of the wreck and any debris will be left in a way that is safe for the public, and supports the future regeneration of the reef.
“The proposal would provide for ongoing monitoring of the wreck's structural integrity, any remaining cargo and surrounding reef sediments, as well as arrangements to make safe any damage or potential hazard identified over time.
“An ongoing onshore debris management plan, run by locally employed contractors will remain in place for the coastline and beaches of the offshore islands and the Bay of Plenty mainland.”
“If the consents are applied for and granted a restoration package will be established to provide funding for a range of community and iwi based research scholarships as well as grants for environmental, social, cultural and or economic projects across the Bay of Plenty.”
The Rena grounded on Astrolabe Reef on October 5, 2011 subsequently spilling more than 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the ocean.
John said yesterday it had cost $275million to date.