14 Oct 2011

You deserve answers, PM tells Papamoa residents

11:00 pm on 14 October 2011

Prime Minister John Key has met with Papamoa residents and told them they deserve answers about why a cargo ship grounded off the Bay of Plenty coast, seriously polluting beaches and waterways.

Salvage teams are preparing for the removal of hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil from the Rena which grounded on Astrolabe Reef, off Tauranga, on 5 October.

Mr Key told the meeting of about 400 people on Friday that the Rena is not just a boat that lost its engine and was washed up on the reef.

"This is a boat that under any circumstances, you would expect to be able to navigate that passage of water - and it happens every single day here in Tauranga.

"So we are entitled to some answers and you are entitled to feel pretty damn annoyed about what's gone on - we're annoyed as well."

There were some angry scenes as people expressed fears of health effects from the hundreds of tonnes of oil reaching shore and the dispersants trialled to clean it up.

Others linked the Rena's grounding to the risk from off-shore drilling.

Mr Key said those responsible for the spill would feel the full force of the justice system.

He again defended the Government's handling of the disaster, saying every possible resource is being mobilised to stop the situation becoming worse.

Ship in fragile state

Residents were told at the meeting all that is holding a stricken container ship together is its position on the reef off Tauranga and some internal structures.

Maritime New Zealand national manager of marine pollution Andrew Berry showed photos of the ship and pointed out cracks on both sides of Rena's hull.

Mr Berry said a crack that runs across the deck has joined up somewhere underneath the vessel and all that is holding it together is its position on the reef and internal ducting and companionways.