Govt’s decision to remove part of Rena wreckage uneases iwi

By Harata Brown

The Government says it supports the Tauranga locals call to remove the Rena wreck, except for the sunken stern at the bottom of the Astrolabe Reef.

This decision still comes as a low blow to a representative from Ngāi Te Hapū of Motiti Island who says the Government continue to breach its Treaty obligations. 

The Government says the bow, as well as remaining parts of the Rena wreck and debris down to 30metres underwater, should be removed.

“Whenever there is a shipwreck, imagine, there is going to be rubbish on the sea floor.  The particular concern is the chopper and plastic beads,” says Attorney General Chris Finlayson.

Today the Government released its submission in response to the Rena owners' resource consent to leave the Rena wreck on the Astrolabe Reef.

However, at a depth of 70m under water lies the stern of the wreck, and the Attorney-General says health and safety issues cause concern if it were to be removed.

“Getting people down there, how long they can stand down there, what sorts of conditions are down there, those sort of factors we need to add in to the mix,” says Chris Finlayson.

Buddy Mikaere, spokesperson for Ngāi Te Hapū says, “It's always been quite clear that majority of iwi want the entire wreck removed along with all the debris goes comes with it.”

The Waitangi Tribunal ruled that Astrolabe Reef is a taonga to Māori and that the Crown did not properly consult with Māori in regards to leaving the Rena wreck.

Mr Mikaere also says it looks as though the Government continues to turn a blind eye to those findings.  "Can we look forward with confidence in future consultation?  No, I don't think so."

Submissions on the Rena resource consent application before the Bay of Plenty Regional Council closed today, but it's expected that this case will transfer to the Environmental Court.