Rena Case Going to Enviro Court

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council announced today that it has decided to refer the application to leave the rest of the Rena wreck on Astrolabe reef to the Environment Court. The council saw the writing on the wall: it was going to wind up there anyway, via appeals.  The Chief Executive, Mary-Anne Macleod was quoted in the BOPRC’s media release as saying:

 “First, it is clear from comments made by interested parties and submitters that any decision made by the Council is likely to be appealed to the Environment Court anyway. Given the inevitability of an appeal, it makes no sense to impose duplicate costs on those submitters who wish to appear in person. Also the costs to the ratepayer would be significantly increased if the Council were to hold its own hearings, only to have to participate again at an Environment Court level.”

The so-called Astrolabe Community Trust, set up by the owners and insurers of the Rena, have lots of money to fight this in the court and they wanted it to go there, while opponents will have to scrape up what they can since it seems likely our ‘representatives’ (the various councils) will be about as useful at protecting residents and the environment from shippers and insurers as the councils around Waihi are in protecting residents there from mining companies. Still, now that it’s gone to the court, there will be a bit of money available for objectors through the Govt to fund their case. I think a maximum of $40,000 if memory serves.

And while I’m whining about the media (oh, wait, but I wasn’t), how come the BOP Times gets to put their own tagline on this story: Rena Application Goes to Environment Court. Can you see any difference between that and the media release titled Rena Application Heads for Environment Court? (OK, “Goes” rather than “heads”). Could they at least have “added some value” by getting comment from some of the interested parties?

In related content, my previous post was on this issue, and was titled The Rena Sellout.

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Rena: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Or, an alternative headline might be, A Definition of Impossible.

Impossible being trying to clean up zillions of these (pix taken 23 April at the Mount):

Plastic beads from the Rena wreck.

Plastic beads from the Rena wreck.

From this:

Crews at work picking up beads on the Mount beach.

Crews at work picking up beads on the Mount beach.

According to info from the Rena Recovery Project’s site  the storm over the weekend caused the release of “a quantity of plastic beads” from a container in the stern of the wreck. Hmmm, “a quantity”. That’s specific.

The project also says that the beads pose no threat to humans or wildlife. I suppose I find the latter a little hard to believe. Back in 2012, there was a whole lot of reporting about the threat the beads might pose to wildlife when a container holding 17 tonnes of them washed ashore on Matakana Island, which stretches between Mt Maunganui and Waihi Beach. But this time around, there hasn’t been any useful digging that I can see (excuse the inappropriate verb) into just what the impact of these beads is. And the authorities almost always reflexively say that X, Y and Z will have little or no impact on A, B and C. Will see what I can find out…

UPDATE 23 April 2013: The BOP Times, via the Herald, has a piece about why this latest pollution means the wreck should be removed.

Rena: Good News and Bad Politics

A good crowd turned out last night at the Mt. Maunganui Surf Club to hear an update on the environmental monitoring programme one year after the oil came ashore from the Rena. Marine scientists Professors Chris Battershill of Waikato University and David Schiel of Canterbury led the update, and were accompanied at the top table by the iwi rep Rahera Ohia and the Rena Recovery Manager Catherine Taylor.

I had been along earlier in the day to the media briefing, but the public meeting was actually a lot more useful and informative, with more detail about both the monitoring and what they’ve found so far. That said, because the programme is only a third of the way through, there’s not yet a whole lot to report. The Recovery Programme has its own Web site,  so I won’t go into all the slightly mind-numbing organisational details here.

At the 11 Oct 2012 media briefing on the Rena one year on, from left, Prof. Chris Battershill, chair of Coastal Science at Waikato University; Prof. David Schiel of Canterbury University Rahera Ohia, the iwi rep for the Rena recovery; and Catherine Taylor, Rena Recovery programme manager.

My take on the update so far, based on what the scientists told us, is that the environment is recovering remarkably well, and that the clean up was remarkably effective. Schiel made the point that we, with our 8000-strong army of volunteers in sperm suits, did it right – that the hand-and-sieve approach to the beaches has turned out to be hugely more effective than any effort with heavy machinery would have been, since that tends to just drive the oil deeper into the sand.

I’m actually always a bit suspicious of “everything’s OK now” claims, and after the briefings, I’m not entirely convinced things are as rosy as the speakers last night suggested they are. (More on that below.) That said, I tend to trust the info it a lot more when it’s coming from scientists, not politicians, and I confess that I don’t know a whole heckuva lot about marine science, so it would be churlish to start second-guessing the results they presented. (Oh, and speaking of politicians, more on that below, too.)

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