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The owner and insurers of the MV Rena are to propose leaving part of the wrecked cargo ship on the Astrolabe Reef, as the clean-up bill passes $275 million.
It was this afternoon announced that one proposal being put forward in a new round of community consultation would involve an application for resource consent to leave remaining sections of the wreck on the reef off the Tauranga coast, which the Rena struck just over 500 days ago.
If left, the remaining sections would be made safe, while future regeneration of marine life around the reef would also be ensured.
"The proposal would provide for ongoing monitoring of the wreck's structural integrity, any remaining cargo and surrounding reef sediments, as well as arrangements to make safe any damage or potential hazard identified over time," said Captain John Owen of insurers The Swedish Club.
An ongoing onshore debris management plan, run by locally employed contractors, would remain in place for the coastline and beaches of the offshore islands and the Bay of Plenty mainland.
"Our work programme for the rest of the year will focus on addressing contaminants, the removal of debris from a 10,000 square metre area around the wreck and in due course, to make it safer for recreational diving," he said.
The proposal follows more than 16 months of operations that have so far cost more than $275 million, and included various technical assessments on the options for full and partial wreck removal.
Removing the entire wreck would mean extending the period the exclusion zone would need to remain in place, involve greater disturbance to and destruction of the reef environment and present major operational challenges, including risks to workers operating in volatile and dangerous conditions, the ship's owner and insurers said.
The wreck would not pose a hazard to navigation and should not be a threat to the marine environment, so the further significant costs and risks associated with attempting full removal were considered not to be warranted.
"We will be seeking further feedback on the proposal from the Bay of Plenty community, which will include more hui with local iwi and hapu groups before a final decision is made," Mr Owen said.
If the company gained consent it would establish a "restoration package" to fund a range of research scholarships and grants for projects in the Bay of Plenty.
- By Jamie Morton of the New Zealand Herald