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Rena containers set to be ditched on beach

Published: 10:26AM Tuesday November 22, 2011 Source: ONE News

Some damaged containers off the Rena may be ditched on nearby Papamoa Beach.
Tauranga City Council is defending the temporary dumping ground, but locals are fuming.

This morning about 350 people turned out to see the release of 49 little blue penguins at Mount Maunganui, after they were affected by oil spilled from the container ship grounded on Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga.

But it is what may be coming ashore that has the locals angry.

"There are some people who are at their wit's end because they've had their beach polluted," said Steve Morris, a Papamoa local.

"They've done their best to clean it up and then they've got the risk of these containers coming in right on their doorstep again."

Harrisons Cut was last night approved by the council as the spot where severely damaged containers will be dumped.

"They'll assess the condition of the container, they'll see what's in it, they'll decontaminate it, remove the contents, then remove the container," said Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby.

The council is assuring locals that part of the beach, when it is not being used by container salvage teams, will be completely open to the public. But security are still here and today ONE News were the only ones not being allowed through.

The council says it is a last resort if containers can't be towed to port. But Papamoa locals say nearby farmland should be used instead.
Maritime New Zealand's salvage unit manager, Arthur Jobard, in his first one-on-one interview, said this will not be the last Rena-related drama for the region.

"I would say it is going to take a long time," Jobard told ONE News.

And he says the public should know everything that can be done, is.

"There's a constant stream of work going on in the background that no-one is aware of and that's the big frustration for us."

Salvage continues

Meanwhile, as of early this afternoon, 13 more containers had been taken off the vessel, bringing the total removed to 84.

The two rear container bays on the deck are now empty, allowing salvors to start on the bay behind the bridge superstructure. This bay includes refrigerated containers, which now hold spoiled cargo.

Maritime New Zealand says the crane barge Sea Tow 60 continues to operate at the stern of the Rena, where small amounts of fuel oil are being stripped from the starboard tank.

A light sheen of oil continues to sit downwind from Rena, but is not the result of any new oil source, Maritime NZ said.

Work continues with the beach clean-up, including a surf washing process that has been successful in cleaning oil from the sand, the agency said.