A Report From Sam Judd of Sustainable Coastlines:
On the fifth of October, the Liberian flagged MV Rena approached the Port of Tauranga and smashed into the Astrolabe Reef at full steam.
With over 350 tonnes of Heavy Fuel Oil and 88 containers already making their way into the Bay of Plenty, this has become New Zealand’s biggest coastal clean-up ever.
This is the first major oil spill in our country and passionate Kiwis who love their coast soon made it clear to authorities that they were going to be a part of the clean-up whether they liked it or not. A command centre was set-up in an old supermarket building, with experts from all over the world and our team was called in to assist with deployment of volunteers.
This is the first time ever in the world, that volunteers have been utilised in the shoreline response for an oil spill. With over 6,700 registered and 53 events run so far, these hard-working people have proven their worth in front of an international audience.
Throughout the process the local Iwi have proven to be a real inspiration- their efforts have been a fantastic example of a motivated and cohesive community effort to restore the coastline which is so important for their heritage and culture.
Motiti Island sits only seven kilometres from the stricken Rena. Residents there have been faced with an enormous clean-up task as tonnes of rubbish from containers, all soaked in oil, has coated their precious island.
It came as no surprise to us, to learn that residents have been working every day since the Rena first hit. When locals Adam Desmond and Jay Reeve approached us at a volunteer station wanting to help the people of the island using helicopters, the Iwi were very thankful for the support.
We worked together with the business community and the Iwi and raised over $3,500 in only 3 days, to put together a 30 strong heavy operations crew that went out and relieved the thankful locals for a day.
The immediate support that the project received from many donors showed how quickly communities pull together to help those in need during a time of crisis. Special mention goes to Pure Advantage, Paez New Zealand, Balance Agri-nutrients and Craigs Investment Partners for their generous support.
We awoke Saturday morning to gentle sets rolling in on Papamoa Beach with a typically
colourful east coast sunrise as a backdrop, a welcome relief given the high winds of
the previous evening which had cast some doubt on our ability to fly out at first light to
Motiti, located 21 kilometres north east of Tauranga.
When we landed, the resident Motiti Island whanau were waiting to greet us and the
Rena loomed nearby on the horizon in clear view. We were welcomed onto the marae with a moving pōwhiri and warm hospitality in preparation for the long day ahead.
After a karakia, island representatives led us to selected areas where the huge effort already put in by the residents became clear: there were massive piles of waste that had already been collected by a small team who had been working around the clock which we helped transport to areas for removal. The daunting task ahead also hit home as we saw significant amounts of newly washed-up debris.
The work put in by our crew of volunteers was incredible- we finished ahead of time and managed to clean-up another beach on the island before returning to the marae for a huge feed (always a sign of appreciation) and goodbyes.
Massive thanks to everyone involved in turning this project into reality. It was a special day and the iwi were so thankful for our support that they have invited us back again.
Watch this space to get involved with another mission to Motiti, to help the area most in need get through this disaster. With more oil and debris on the way, the challenge has just begun.