Topic: Rena Submission by Anderley Middleton (23 September 2015)

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On 23 September 2015 Anderley Middleton presented her submission to the RENA Resource Consent Hearing Commissioners and members of the public at the ASB Arena in Truman Lane, Mount Maunganui. The Hearing panel was chaired by retired Environment Court judge Gordon Whiting, with Cultural Commissioner Rauru Kirikiri, marine engineer John Lumsden and environmental scientist Dr Shane Kelly. In May 2014 the Rena’s owner lodged resource consent applications to leave sections of the wreck on Otaiti (Astrolabe) Reef, and to provide for any future discharges of contaminants.

Archived version here.

MV Rena – Hearing Day 12 – Digital Transcript & Annotations 23 September 2015 Part 1 (44:40).

My name is Anderley Middleton.I have a double Masters in Chemistry and Earth Sciences from Waikato University and am currently a secondary teacher of Chemistry and General Science at Katikati College. I have been teaching for 25 years. My passions since high school have been diving, kayaking/canoeing, climbing mountains, sport and conservation. In my role as a teacher I have led many school camps based around conservation education in and out of the water.

I have had three involvements with the Rena since its crash:

  1. The initial first four days of my holiday with the oiled birds and later the dotterel removal programme. Doing this still distresses me. We did have a debrief at the Ornithological Society Conference held in Tauranga the following year, which helped with the shock of losing so many birds. Before the Rena our bird counts were showing awesome comeback as the quality of wetlands and harbours were improving. But the carnage from the one event was devastating after many years working for such little improvements.
  2. On 16 January 2012 I single handidly coordinated the emptying of seven shipping containers that washed up onto the Bowentown end of Waihi Beach. I feared the milk powder would fall into the Orca feeding hole which is just out from the Bowentown Motor Camp as well as currents taking split milk powder bags through the entrance into the harbour where we have significant shellfish beds. With the help of over 200 people (mostly visitors and the lifesaving club who biked in gloves and plastic bags for the beads and polystyrene) we had bags of milk powder that never even touched the seawater stashed on the beach. The first bags started to come in at 12:00pm and we finished rolling up the trunks of trees (also washed in from the boat) at 7:00pm which we used to protect the huge piles of milk powder bags from the king tide during the night. The next day we did a sweep of the whole 8km of beach of polystyrene, beads, oil and milk powder bags. By 1pm our beach was pristine, despite the opposition from the Maritime people at the time. We have not had any other effect since.
  3. Putting in a submission against the consent “to leave the rest of the wreck” resulting in speaking today.

Anderley Middleton (23 September 2015) ........

I have three reasons why I feel the Rena should be completely removed from the Astrolabe Reef:

  1. My observations of the deterioration of the Rainbow Warrior over the 10 consecutive years I dived on her from 1988 to 1998.
  2. From an ecological point of view, the effects that leaving the boat will have on the reef’s ecosystem.
  3. My thoughts on the economic problems for the owners versus New Zealand’s 100% pure, clean green image.

Rainbow Warrior 

The Rainbow Warrior was scuttled onto a sandy seafloor in 1987. My dive club - Cambridge Dive Club - organised a dive trip to dive the wreck, after it was deemed safe and had settled with little movement. In the first eight years of diving we noticed how the seaweeds started to grow all round the outside of the ship’s hull and how little were growing inside. In  those days we were able to swim inside the boat moving from room to room sitting on the toilet, opening cupboard doors and taking titanic photos from the bowsprit. In the later years, these acts became more challenging as thick layers of dust sized particles layered all the floors, walls and ceilings of each room. No sea life other than a few fish were ever found inside. For safety we would attach ourselves with rope so we could get in and out safely. We knew to hardly use our flippers as they swirled all the muck around and our visibility went to zero. The plant life on the hull started to thin out rather than get thicker and I thought that was strange at the time.

My last dive there was in 1998 and this was because when we went down the anchor rope there were these huge plumes of iron oxide (rust) bellowing around us. I was very concerned for our health…. but continued to do the dive. We could not go inside as it had collapsed and generally the visibility was awful. The outside hull was now covered in the dust and we couldn’t see the sea life and the whole image was grey and desolate with very little fish. I was shocked at the rate it deteriorated. It appeared as nothing was happening for about seven years then it all broke down at once…. Rather than gradually over time.

The Rena however is already on a pristine reef full of life both fauna and flora. Its intrusion is nothing but pollution. The rocky reefs will definitely be affected in time from the corrosion of what’s left of the Rena. If it also disintegrates in a few years like the Rainbow Warrior.. then we could kill off the flora and fauna when it corrodes all at once. It may appear to be ok at the moment after four years but it is year seven onwards that worries me and where the disaster will show its full effects from the heavy metal poisoning, which will not be tolerated from the sensitive flora and fauna currently there.

Astrolabe as a dive site is awesome. I did 40 dives with the Tauranga Dive Spearing Fishing Club over 15 years of diving. The great visibility, the pinnacles chocker with wildlife and the really cool fish we saw were stunning. I reckon astrolabe was better diving than most sites of the poor knights. My only concern was the amount of fishing going on and that it would best be suited as a marine reserve. But that could be me being selfish!


This brings me to point 2.  Where the Rainbow Warrior site was designed to attract sea life where there was little, the Rena has interfered with an established marine ecology. Its hull may attract sea plants to grow but it may encourage a species of plant that is tolerant to the sprays or to high iron content of the surface of the boat which is not the normal dominant plant species for this area.  So the reef may appear to be healthy but it fact it could be dying because of the more aggressive iron/spray dominating plant species surviving and becoming a weed. This in turn affects the feeding habits of the herbivores with a change of diet or forced to go eating elsewhere.

To me the Rena needs to go for the sake of any future boat crashes. The economics of the removal is hearsay. If by removing the last half of the boat costs then so be it. If this makes the Rena the worse boating disaster ever, then so be it… I think that it is any way and therefore should not be downgraded. I see that the economics is mostly due to the number of days the crane was used when it was hired on a daily basis. I suggest that the owners buy such a barge or a secondhand one rather than hire one. Then they can hired it out in the future.

I suggest robotics instead of divers where it is deemed unsafe. I reckon the thing needs to be pulled out in huge pieces like the accommodation block was rather than little by little. Do not underestimate the technological advances science has made in the last 20 years. It can be done or quickly engineered for a cost.

New Zealand’s 100% pure, clean green image 

The Rena is a problem that should never have happened, it was no accident and it is disturbing that our outstanding marine environment in the Bay of Plenty has been affected - it is unforgivable. When we are at a stage where our oceans are struggling to cope with us humans, we need to put saving our environment over economics and fully remove the Rena. This has to be the historical event that changes globally attitudes from just being an economic reason to purely an environmental reason. Please remove the Rena from Astrolabe Reef and maintain New Zealand's 100% Pure, clean, green image.


See also: Rena break-up risk to reef: Teacher by John Cousins (Bay of Plenty Times, 24 September 2015).


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Rena Submission by Anderley Middleton (23 September 2015)