Photo: New Zealand Defence Force

Ten years since the Rena disaster – In the News

It’s been a decade since New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster, where the Rena container ship ploughed into Ōtāiti / Astrolabe reef.

Around a thousand tons of oily waste was collected from local shores after the ship ran aground. Waikato University’s chair of coastal sciences, Professor Chris Battershill recalled how Pāpāmoa beach was “blackened” when he arrived at the scene.

“It was unusually calm. We all went to the beach and could just see the ship on the horizon. It looked as if the ship had momentarily stopped.”

Little blue penguins were also totally covered in oil slick, recalls Julia Graham, who founded the Western Bay of Plenty Wildlife Trust.

“And the smell. That is something that will always stick with me – collecting these birds as it comes out of the water and the most potent smell of oil. They just didn’t stand a chance.”

To this day, there are many reminders of the disaster, said Māori historian and Tauranga iwi leader Buddy Mikaere.

“On a calm day you can see the oil slick that sits above the wreck. You still have little bits of congealed oil washing up on the beaches,” he said. “Last week we had a whole lot of those plastic beads that seemed to be a major component of the cargo washing up still. We know that those little beads are still getting into the food chain.”

But Waikato University marine ecologist Dr Phil Ross said the reef itself is recovering.

“First few years, I couldn’t imagine this place ever recovering to becoming a normal reef. It was a scrapyard.”

“Now it’s hard to tell the difference between a rocky reef covered in kelp forest and a piece of shipwreck covered in kelp forest,” said Dr Ross.

Here are some of the highlights of the anniversary coverage:

NZ Herald: Rena: A decade after disaster
Sun Live: Rena: Ten Year Commemorative Special
RNZ: Astrolabe: 10 years on from the Rena disaster and Tauranga remembers Rena 10 years on
Newstalk ZB: Marine ecologist ten years on from Rena disaster
Stuff: Black beaches and ‘all hell broken loose’: A decade on, the Rena disaster remembered
Newshub: Rena wreck home to ‘real biodiversity’ ten years after disaster
Waatea News: Buddy Mikaere – 10 year since Rena wreck
RNZ Nights: Lessons from the wreck of the Rena
Newshub: Volunteers reflect on 10 years since Rena grounded off Tauranga in NZ’s worst maritime environmental disaster
1News: Ten years on from Rena oil-spill disaster in BOP
Bay of Plenty Times: Rena captain Mauro Balomaga now teaching maritime students how to pilot ships