6 Aug 2015

Rena clean-up plan comes to an end

7:01 am on 6 August 2015

A three-and-a-half year plan to return the Bay of Plenty coast to what it was before the Rena ran aground has wrapped up.

The final meeting of the group overseeing the clean-up has been told there has been no oil on beaches since March last year, and wildlife and shellfish are all returning to health.

The bow of the Rena in August 2103.

The bow of the ship can be seen above the water in August 2013 Photo: RENA PROJECT

The area, near Motiti Island, was once bounteous for cray fisherman Ian Steed, but he has not been allowed within two nautical miles of the wreck since the oil spill.

"Most people want it all gone - but, as a compromise, at least get rid of the bow section which is on top of the reef," he said.

"Everything underneath it would have died and wouldn't be very conducive to marine life."

The owners of the Rena have applied for a resource consent to leave the wreck on the reef for at least another ten years.

The Government wants the part of the wreck in water down to 30 metres removed.

The Government wants the part of the wreck in water down to 30 metres removed. Photo: RENA PROJECT

Ngai Te Rangi chair Charlie Tawhiao, in Tauranga, said the bay would never be the same while the ship remained.

"The remains of the ship and its cargo are going to have negative impacts on the environment - we expect that because none of it belongs there," he said.

"No one is sure just how bad it's going to be, but we're certain that the mauri of the sea will ever be restored."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby wants the wreck gone, but admitted it might not be possible.

"I'm a pragmatic person: while I'd love it to be all removed, it may not," he said.

"The stern part - at least two thirds of its will probably be unrecoverable."

A three-week hearing is set for September, and the Government has submitted the bow section can be safely removed.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said he was encouraged by the results of the $2.4 million recovery plan.

"The level of contamination is a lot better than I would have expected," he said.

Professor of coastal science at Waikato University Chris Battershill has been monitoring the bay's ecosystem.

"The wider environment has recovered extremely well. We didn't expect that, and we think it's because of the massive human effort that was deployed to clean up the beaches," he said.

"The issue now remains with where the wreck lies."

Mr Crosby said the decision on whether the wreck stayed would come down to science, rather than what the community wanted.