Topic: Rena Submission by Mount Maunganui Sport Fishing Club (23 September 2015)

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On 23 September 2015 Brian Rhodes presented a submission on behalf of the Mount Maunganui Sport Fishing Club 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 2 (35:50).

1.      Mount Maunganui Sport Fishing Club is an incorporated society that has its beginnings back in the 1970s.Our club is probably best described as a family fishing club with members having fishing, or an interest in fishing as something in common.

2.      The club actively promotes fishing for the future and we encourage our younger members and their respective parents and grandparents to be a part of our tournaments with a junior section provided in most tournaments.

3.      I am the President of the club.

4.      We also have here today, our Conservation Officer,Ian Steed, and 2 of our NZSFC representatives,Mark Hemingwayand Vance Fulton. These gentlemen have come along today to answer questions as they have far more knowledge then I of today’s matters particularly in relation to the Astrolabe reef prior to the Rena disaster.  

5.      Ian has been our Club Conservation Officer for 11 years and has extensive knowledge of the coastline having worked as a commercial crayfisher for the last 18 years as well working in other areas of commercial fishing for the previous30 years. Ian has been an active club and committee member for many, many years .

6.      Mark is a life member of the club as well as having held the office of President. He has been a member of our club and committee for 21years and is currently Vice president of New Zealand Sport Fishing Council on which he has served 17 years. Mark has recently been nominated for International Game Fishing Association Life member by the board of NZSFC.

7.      Vance has been a club member for 22years and a committee member and New Zealand Sport Fishing Council delegate for the last 11 years. 

All these guys are keen fishermen and have fished the Astrolabe for years up until the exclusion zone was imposed.

8.      We represent our club. As such we are not here to debate all the expert data and information that has been presented. Some of which we have read.

9.      We are here today to make sure that the voice of our club and the feelings of the club are heard and appreciated. I say the feelings of the club, but more specifically, our members.

10.  When I first spoke to our subcommittee about the submissions, it was obvious that the feeling about this area of the ocean ran deep. Heart felt deep. Members of the committee, started speaking of being our there and seeing all sorts of wonderful happenings with the marine life. There can be no debate on whether this is a special place or not, it just is!

11.  I have dived parts of the reef 3 times only, and the scenery and in particular, the huge rays that were resting on one dive was magic…………..we all have these memories. Many of us are not just fisher mad, we also enjoy diving.

12.  Our club is looking forward to getting back out there fishing again one day. We would like to be there tomorrow but there remains a lot of work to be done before the reef is rid of Rena.

13.  Our submission today will focus on two concerns which are our reasons for submitting that this Resource Consent application should be declined.

14.  These are issues which are important to not only our members, but to the community at large.

15.  Finally following these concerns we would like to present a plea for some sanity in regard to the wreckage on the reef and how leaving or removing the same is likely to be perceived in the future.

16.  Before I go into these issues, I would like to read out one of our member’s ideas of the reef. This was passed on to me early in the process when it became known we were lodging a submission. I quote;

Astrolabe Reef is arguably one of NZ’s most iconic recreational fishing meccas. For our members it is accessible by relatively small boats and is frequented by, and home to such a vast array of sort after species. It is a special place to our club members and it deserves to be treated with the utmost respect.

Prior to the Rena grounding Astrolabe had claimed many very meritorious fishing records, the NZ Ladies Broadbill Swordfish Record of 221.8kg, World Class Black Marlin to 424kg, World Class Striped Marlin to 165kg, World Class Y/Tail Kingfish to 30kg, World Class Snapper to in excess of 13kg and world class kahawai to in excess of 3kg all of these were not uncommon during the summer months for the billfish and year round for the other species.

Add to this foaming schools of Skipjack Tuna, Trevally & Kahawai that frequented the surface mixed with trophy Snapper lurking below. Around the edges of the reef Tarakihi, Golden Snapper and Hapuka are available. To keep this large area of hungry predators fed, huge schools of Mackerel, Koheru, Pilchards and Krill form an equally important part in the food chain.

As you can see Astrolabe has such an abundant and diverse range of quality species available to our club members and the greater fishing community. Will it ever return to its previous iconic fishing status? Well, to give it its best chance the reef needs to be returned to its original status.”

We appreciate that much of the above fish life may have returned to the reef, but this gives a little insight into what was happening around the reef area prior to the grounding. This quote also mentions original status of the reef. We don’t consider the need for any legal definition of what this means…….common sense should tell most people what this means.

As mentioned our submission will cover 2 areas of major concern to us and a plea;

17.  A reef such as Astrolabe will always attract many recreational fisherman. Assuming the exclusion zone is lifted as is proposed to happen as part of the approval of this consent application, we can expect to see many boats around the Astrolabe area.

18.  We accept that the debris and wreckage field may only cover 2% of the total reef area. Such a small area does not preclude people from fishing there on the 2%.

19.  Common bottom fishing practice around a reef would be to anchor. Currently the debris and wreck area will prove to be a mine field for anchorage of vessels. Not an issue to get anchorage, but certainly an issue when it comes time to retrieve the anchor.

20.  Today, most boats out fishing Astrolabe reef will be equipped with electric winches. Fouling an anchor with an electric winch in a sea swell of even minimal height greatly increases the likely-hood of a boating accident occurring .ie swamping of the vessel.

21.  Having so much debris and wreckage remaining on the reef means the risk factor here is greatly increased.

22.  Reducing the debris field, or clearing the debris field down to a greater depth than 30 or 35 metres obviously reduces the risk but doesn’t negate it completely.

This is one of our concerns.

23.  As mentioned, my dive experience on Astrolabe was something to be remembered. The clarity of the water, and the temptation to loose yourself in the environment was hard to resist.

24.  Couple this temptation with the want to get close up views of the wreckage and or treasure trove of debris, and you have a potential recipe for disaster.

25.  Most of the information re tourism positives resulting from leaving the wreckage on the reef has related to recreational diving.

26.  The depths of the real attractions on this site are at depths which are generally regarded as being at the upper limits for recreational diver safety. Commercial Dive Standards have a limit of 50 metres for air.

27.  Concern has been expressed by supporters of this application that one of the major hazards in total removal is the risk to commercial divers.

28.  If there is a hazard to commercial divers, then the hazard must be considered even greater for recreational divers should the wreckage and debris remain.

29.  The Mount Maunganui Underwater Club support this consent application but as noted in a recent article in the NZ Herald, they note that given the perilous position of the wreck, deep below the sea surface, their president Mr Fox considers the site an “advanced dive”.

30.  Part of this article also quoted Mr Fox as saying; and I quote; “There will be wreck-diving nuts who will just go crazy over it, but as a big visitor attraction to the Bay as a dive site, personally I can’t see truck-loads of boats going out there.”(1)

31.  Another report from another Underwater club member who dived the wreck in late May this year………The divers were given a stop zone of 27metres. I quote from the article; ‘The accommodation block was clear 10 metres below and as we swam up the length of the hull it was hard not to fall to the tempting beckoning of the hull. “Had to keep one eye on the depth gauge.” (2)

32.  These are experienced recreational divers.

33.  The warnings from the above two quotes would suggest that should the wreck be left and opened to divers, accidents are going to occur and at these depths, they are usually fatal.

34.  Mark my words; recreational diving of the Rena wreck will cost lives… is only a matter of time before the first fatality happens.

35.  That is our second concern.

36.  Both these concerns, we consider major. Sufficiently major to decline this Resource Consent application by The Astrolabe Community Trust to abandon the wreck of the MV Rena and any future discharge of contaminants from the wreck.

37.  Whilst our wish is to have the wreck and debris removed, we acknowledge that declining this application to leave MV Rena and debris on Astrolabe does not automatically mean it will be removed, but in doing so (declining the consent), means it is not necessarily stuck out there for ever.

38.  From reports it is apparent that much time has been spent talking with interested parties about this consent application. It is evident that along with much talking there has been (to put it bluntly) a fair bit of cheque book diplomacy being undertaken.

39.  There are many of life’s experiences that suggest that money does not fix everything. What appears as a reasonable offer to heal wounds today, will likely appear as a less appealing solution tomorrow especially when the wounds are still with us.

40.  Our club has not had any input, other than being invited to the first Beca meeting about this consent. I suspect we did not receive any further invitations or consultation as our policy of removal was made clear at that meeting.

41.  Be that as it may; We do not see this disaster being sorted by buying people and organizations.

42.  Surely the fact that the restrictions (10 year minimum) being proposed on this consent are enough to ring alarm bells that all is not stable out there.

43.  Surely, logic would tell you that the time when we need to know what is going on (ie monitoring) out there is precisely the time when we will NOT be able to get access; due to extreme weather events.  

44.  Currently the reef is tainted. As already noted, 2% is tainted.

45.  Left as it is, it will always be tainted and more likely to cause fatalities as a result of the wreck and debris than if the same were removed.

46.  This does not take into consideration the possibility of more pollution from cargo or trapped fuel oil that may or may not be still out there.

47.  It may take 3 to 5 years to remove, but this surely is a moment in time compared with the legacy that we will leave for our grandchildren and their children as a result of that removal or not.

48.  We accept some damage will be done to the reef as part of that removal, but it will heal, we have all had to do it, wear some damage at some time, and end up with some physical scars. We call them scars of life.  

49.  The same goes for the Astrolabe Reef.

50.  As a club we are willing to trade fishing time at the reef for a clean up to be completed.

51.  Alternatively, the legacy left by abandoning the wreck on Astrolabe will haunt us all with the expected fatalities that will happen should this consent be approved.

52.  Every time an abnormal weather system is forecast for the area, we will be waiting for the Rena to surface again.

53.  It is estimated in one of the reports that it may take upwards of $300 million from here on to remove the remaining wreck and debris. 

54.  Organisations that specialize in ships, sea freight and or insurance of the same must surely be aware of and be prepared for the potential costs of a loss of this magnitude.

55.  Why is it so hard for people to say we did wrong; we made a mess in your part of the world on a beautiful reef, but no conditions attached, we are going to get it cleaned up.

56.  How difficult can that be?

57.  Our Plea; Tear up this Resource Consent Application and clear up Astrolabe.

58.  I would like to conclude this submission with a couple of scenarios; scenarios that don’t relate to this Resource Consent Application as such, but something for us all to think about with matters such as this .…………these are both events that could conceivably happen in 35 years time and maybe shine a little light on the how our today’s actions may be perceived in the future………….why 35 years time, well that will be when I receive my letter from King William congratulating me on getting to 100. More important though, this will be a time when one of two responses from a future generation could happen.

59.  The first scenario;

As I said 35 years’ time; there is a Rhodes family gathering; my great grand daughter is sitting on the floor having just finished looking at a scrap book compiled by the old fella of the Wahine disaster from 1968.
She now turns to looking at a newspaper report from September 7th 2015.
Conversation goes like this;
‘Mum, what is this about” as she holds up the newspaper article.
Mum’s response “That’s all about a ship that hit a rock out from Great Grandads place at Papamoa.
“What happened?” says the daughter.
“Well, Great Granddad went to a meeting with the man that owned the ship and asked him to take it off Grandad’s rock”
“What did the man say?”
“He told Great Granddad that he wouldn’t take the ship away”
A moment or two of silence as the daughter sat looking at the pictures. Then she said;
“Mum, do you know the number of this man?”
“No, but I could maybe find it for you, why?”
“Because I want to call him and growl at him for leaving his ship on Great Grandad’s rock 

60.  The second scenario;

Same time, and same place on the floor with the same newspaper.
Conversation goes like this;
“Mum, what is this about?” holding up the newspaper article.
Mums’ response; “That’s all about a ship that hit a rock out from Great Grandad’s place at Papamoa.
“What happened?”
“Well Great Grandad went and had a meeting with the man that owned the ship and asked him to take it off Grandad’s rock”
What did the man say?
He told Grandad that it was going to cost $300 million dollars but because it was sitting on and hurting Grandad’s rock, he would get it all taken away”
There was silence for a moment.
“Mum, do you know if this man has any children like me?”
“No I don’t know for sure, but I think he probably does, why?”
“Because I want to go and see them and say thank you.”

On behalf of Mount Maunganui Sport Fishing Club, thank you for listening to our submissions, plea and our forward planning story re this Resource Consent Application.



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