Clean, green, oil spilled New Zealand

One week ago the container vessel MV Rena ran aground off the east coast of New Zealand’s north island, she is stranded on the Astro Reef near Tauranga.  At that stage the weather was clear and calm;

From what I understand a lot of valuable potential clean up time was lost while the weather was calm.

I am a New Zealander based in Croatia, on the radio here I was able to pick out something about environmental ‘catasphoe’ in NZ, and I have been watching, reading and learning about this VAST and tragic disaster since I first heard this news.  Anxious to know what is not being reported in the ‘news’ I asked a Tauranga based friend what she knew, through this friend I was put in touch with a the ‘MV Rena Response Monitoring & Action’ Group that has been established on facebook.

The images that I am using here come via this group and I am following with interest, sadness and awe the ‘progress’ on cleaning up the mess that has been created by the grounding of this huge vessel.  The ship was carrying 1,368 containers, eight of which contained hazardous materials, as well as 1,700 tons of heavy fuel oil and 200 tons of marine diesel.

By Sunday, 9 October, a 5-kilometre (3.1 mi) oil slick threatened wild life and the area’s rich fishing waters.Oil from the Rena began washing ashore at Mt Maunganui beach on 10 October 2011. Bad weather that night caused the ship to shift on the reef, and the crew were evacuated. The shifting of the ship caused a further damage, resulting in a further 130 – 350 tonnes of oil leaking. (via Wikipedia)

My interest in this disaster is natural as a New Zealander/caring environmental person, my sadness is also a natural reaction to this disaster;

how can we not feel saddened?

And my awe stems from the strength of passion and the sharing and caring expressed by the members of MV Rena Group –  together we are strong.  The information, updates, video footage, photographs and thoughts that are being shared via this forum remind me how great it is to be a New Zealander, how together we achieve more, how in times of trouble we must pull together and how the combined voices of people who care need to shared and listened to.  Will our government listen? What action will be taken and will lessons be learnt from this environmental catastrophe?

As I am writing this it is about 3am in New Zealand and these words were just shared to the group by someone who had stopped her car at the beach on her way home from work,

‘ there was a airy feeling standin there alone it felt like i have just lost  a love one i know i have we all have it our beach our pride and joy. as i walked bck to my car tears rolled down my check as it was like i was saying goodbye. i dont know what i was feeling maybe it was sadness anger all in 1 i have no idea’

this was one of the first images that I saw, it also resonated very strongly with me.

Thanks to group members for allowing me to share your photos, and for all the work that you are doing, sharing and caring, you make me proud to be a New Zealander amid this mess.  Kia kaha!

A news article and footage of the MV Rena

This link will lead you to an on-line petition to be presented to the NZ government when it has 50,000 signatures.

About Seba Silver

In June 2011 my wife and I opened a small store on the beautiful Dalmatian Island of Korcula. Our store (Seba Dizajn) showcases stunning filigree jewellery, all work is made on site offering you the fascinating chance to see filigree jewellery being made. Visit us at to see and purchase some of our filigree jewellery. The Seba family have been working, and creating beautiful pieces of filigree jewellery for over 500 years.
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14 Responses to Clean, green, oil spilled New Zealand

  1. Helz-Design says:

    it is breaking my heart to hear about this.
    read in the german paper about the catastrophe as well.

    it makes me angry that they didn.t take up cleaning mission the very moment the vessel stranded.
    what.s the problem with officials all over the world?

    • Seba Silver says:

      It is heartbreaking, and very frustrating. There must be some accountability surely? But it is now almost 1 week since the stranding and as you know the situation is worsening as the weather is bad and the ship may break… whilst I know little about the entire situation it hits me so hard. Thanks for sharing your support and thoughts.

  2. Michele Taylor Coach says:

    Oh, my. Thanks for this, Ruth. Great to have your perspective… Sad sad times.

    • Seba Silver says:

      Thanks Michele, and thanks for recognising it is only ‘my persepctive’ – I am living on the far side of the globe from this disaster but felt I had to write something as it has been eating at my heart to see all the pictures and ‘news’. It is always hard in these siturations to know which news to take on board, which is being shared to give people peace of mind and which is being shared to stir up angry and discontent.

  3. Thanks for sharing this info and it is nice to hear your thoughts Ruth.

    • Seba Silver says:

      Hi Kelly, what is right and what is wrong? It is so hard to know -especially from far away. What I wrote yesterday was my own feelings to date and I am having a morning catch up now on what ‘happened’ in NZ while we were sleeping. I do believe everything will take a long time to heal but the healing will happen.

  4. I applaud you Ruth in your support for the people of NZ and our environment – I tried to put my comments in earlier, but after a considerable time typing it … the screen went blank and I lost all the words – this is my second attempt and is possibly less ordered. I apologise for that but I think it covers the main points and I hope that it will be helpful rather than antagonistic. I too deeply care about our environment and am saddened to see what is happening to it. I am however concerned about the content of some of the social media information going round aobut the event and wanted to try and provide a balanced view or an alternative comment to try and balance some of the other views out there.

    I hesitated to comment sooner as my opinion may be not what some people may want to read. I see so much anger and distress in blog comments and news items and other social media about the oil spill near Tauranga. I too am upset about the damage to our beautiful coastline and the deaths of our avian fauna – as an environmental consultant I know what that means. But I wish I could see some balanced comments being made out in the “ether”. People seem to be fixated on getting information about things that can’t be known yet, at a speed that is not possible. We don’t live in the fantasy world of CSI and NCIS – you can’t just click a mouse and get the answers. Just because social media gives us instant messaging it doesn’t guarantee instant useful and correct information and I am not impressed at how it is being used to spread hysteria and misinformation and progaganda. I also am amazed at how readily so many people believe what they are being told (without checking their facts and their sources ability to give correct factual information), then jump to conclusions and make accusations from a position of very little knowledge. NZ is only a very small country, with limited resources and lots of distances to travel – we do very well with the high quality expertise we do have and yet I see some people are so ready to criticise and accuse and spread mis-information. Yes, we need to ask questions, but make them focussed and realistic. Yes, we have a right to be angry and want to know how the accident happened – but use our energy to prioritise what needs to be done and do it in an efficient manner… (e.g. clean up, help people disadvantaged by loss of work due to the oil spill) … and get the facts straight first. Avoid using photos as propaganda and to explain things that are not true, or not yet proven – or to justify something that is not in the correct context. I am seeing so many dots eing joined that are just not meant to be joined up. Don’t assume the media knows all – they always have a slant to make a good story. Yes, this oil spill and loss of containers is a bad thing, and we all wish it hadn’t happened, but put it in perspective and in context. Look up the chemicals that “apparently” are meant to be on board – check reliable references (eg Wikipedia) and find out for yourself – you will find they aren’t as dangerous as people (the media) make out … and even if they are, the sea is a very good diluter and mixer – the massive water volume cancels out adverse effects. We may not like it but all over the world the sea is used every day to deal with our sewage discharges and it is very effective. John Key, NZ’s Prime Minister provided a good summary of events, priorities and reasons for the progress to date this morning on National Radio. it would be worth trying to access a copy of his interview from Radio New Zealand. There are some fundamental facts that no-one seems to take note of in all the hysteria to date. The oil is solid – it needs to be heated to get it out of the ship – that requires special equipment (and had to be located and taken to the ship in case the onboard systems were not operational – it was not possible to tell that until they got to the ship). NZ’s geography and location of ports and suitable vessels means it takes time to get to the site, and we don’t have lots of specialist equipment at the ready just in case – this would be economically stupid if not impossible. We are barely coping in the current global economic recession, and amidst ongoing earthquake events in Christchurch. I am not sure where people think the money and reasources come from to deal with these events. Works also need to be undertaken safely – and legally – and by people who are trained to do it. We shouldn’t overreact to information when it contains numbers – The volume of oil sounds like a lot … but it isn’t that much in the context of other events we have seen on the news, or natural disasters such as tsunamis. Forty metre long containers can’t just be picked up and taken away – has anyone noticed how big container cranes are … and that they need to operate on flat stable land? Yes, questions may need to be asked but don’t tie up valuable resources asking for unrealistic things within unreaslistic timeframes – be a Fantastic Kiwi and get out there and do something to help somehow – positive people are so much more productive, happy and healthy.

    • Seba Silver says:

      Hi Jenny, thanks so much for taking the time to write an indepth comment here (especially as you lost the words the first time). There is always so much mixed media messaging and especially in these supposed modern times of information being at our finger tips. I know I am not very well informed, I wrote to share my view on this situation. My views too may change in time as more information emerges, but then whose information do I take on board? It is a very interesting situation that the media and government opposition groups create. In any environmental disaster we will always look for someone to blame and demand answers – even when we may know what we are asking cannot be answered very easily. It is our nature to react and seek the ‘truth’. I have found an amazing outpouring of positivity where people are volunteering their time/resources to help, these people I salute and wish all the best.

  5. Bryce New says:

    “NZ’s geography and location of ports and suitable vessels means it takes time to get to the site, and we don’t have lots of specialist equipment at the ready just in case – this would be economically stupid if not impossible… I am not sure where people think the money and reasources come from to deal with these events.” – Jenny

    In reference to the above remarks, I understand the ship is lying relatively close to the Port of Tauranga, which I understand is one of NZ’s largest, in terms of the tonnage moved in and out.

    Assuming that’s right, it would make great sense that such a port, which also has a huge amount of revenue associated with it (which I think is key here), would have the resources standing by, 24/7, to be able to make a fast, initial response to a major oil spillage or other marine incident. Maybe not have all the resources to deal with a major incident from go to whoa, but at least be able to mount an initial and effective response. And be able to pull in the other required resources from Auckland, Wgtn or Lyttleton.

    Particularly when our entire economy is so heavily weighted towards the export of primary or secondary goods by ships and shipping.

    Seems to me that maybe some good incident planning might have slipped through the gaps with this one. And when huge amounts of our revenue are so closely associated with shipping, I get to thinking this is somewhat an issue of priorities also. I struggle to see that it is a reflection of a small or somewhat stagnant NZ economy.


    Bryce New
    Maianbar, NSW

    • Seba Silver says:

      hi Bryce, thanks for joining us. These are interesting times and I am not sure how decision and policy makers prioritise. I am finding a lot of mixed messaging being sent in many directions, no wonder we don’t really know what is going on… does anyone?

      • noel says:

        Hi Ruth Big brother here I think from what i have heard the problem with the ship is that it is almost broken in half and the damage prevented the oil from being removed no mater what resourses they had on hand. The first 4 days were spent re plumbing the insides of the ship and sealing off all the leaks that were caused by running onto a reef at 17 knots, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most dificuilt this recovery rates at at least 8, it will take time but they have the best people in the world working on it and saftey is their number 1 priority. If Bryce wants to pop across the ditch and sort the economy out and work out a way of generating income without shipping the election is comming up but in the mean time we have thousands of shipping movements a year and things are going to keep moving along,remember the press are only interested in bad news lets focus on the good Noel

      • Seba Silver says:

        Hi Noel, thanks for the info and signing up to your little sisters blog!!! I am sure bryce would love to pop across the ditch and we would all love to sort out the mess, it is nice to know that we have a great team working there. What’s the latest? I have found the press ‘slant’ on the situation interesting but not seen any updates for a while – too busy holidaying and playing tour guide here…. will write about that next. Thanks for taking the time to comment and look forward to more from you! Enjoy the Harwood weekend.

  6. Point taken Bryce-My earlier comments about NZ economy and availabilty of ships/equipment need to be taken in the context they were made … I was responding to comments from other people (not on this blog) who seemed to think we should have these clean up facilities dotted all round the country (not just Tauranga) … waiting for a disaster to strike. I am not sure of the logistics of that or the costs … and no-one has offered an answer to that – people seem to want information and answers instantly – as Ruth has correctly observed … it is a natural human reaction.

    We all want to protect our coastline and our ecology and habitat values – and it is wonderful to see the teams of army and other trained volunteers who have turned out to assist where they are needed to do just that.

    So far the ship is holding together … no-one is sure for how long – as cracks are forming on the hull and the weather could make these worse. Wave action recently has made it too dangerous to be on board the boat and/or action the pumping system (which requires a hose linkage between the tanks of oil and an oil barge). It is a very slow process as the oil is almost solid. There are some very very brave salvage experts working out how to deal with the situation and what to do if the boat does break up – and they have mentioned one possible plan, involving tugs towing the end of the boat to shallower waters where it can be dealt with more easily and safely. In the meantime the beaches are largely cleaned up. It is the loss of sea birds which is so tragic. I have to remain optimistic that there are people out there who are doing everything possible to remedy the situation as fast at they can, and planning for alternative action when they need to, while others are cleaning up and saving the rescued birds. It is such a good thing to see the penguins playing happily in the rescue tank as they let their cleaned feathers become naturally waterproofed again.

    I plan to focus on the positive things – I believe we have the specialist people and resources to resolve this situation – it won’t be easy but we have to have faith in these people who do know what they are doing – unlike most of us lay-people.

    • Seba Silver says:

      Hi Jenny and thank you for the update – alhtough I have been out of the loop for a while and I am sure there must be some changes in the situation since I wrote my post. I will do some reserach on this too – if you know anything new please let us know.

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