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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rena shock: Key's early morning wake up call

The Rena disaster has been one timely wake up call after another. The response (or non-response) to the wreck and the oil spill has forced the nation to confront our government's complacency. Not much of a silver lining to several hundred tonnes of slick, but the contigency issues at least have been exposed, again.

Today the Bay of Plenty had the earliest or early morning wake up calls. I am on the coast and noted the time - 2:20am - it was a shuddering that lasted about 20 seconds. NZNewswire:

The magnitude-5.0 quake struck on the other side of the Bay of Plenty, 40km north of Te Kaha and 50km deep, at 2.19am. No damage on land was reported and it did not affect oil pumping operations aboard the Rena, a MNZ spokesman told NZ Newswire.

As of Saturday afternoon 256tonnes of oil had been taken off the ship - the next updated figure will be available on Sunday afternoon.

The ship was carrying 1700 tonnes of fuel oil when it ran aground on the Astrolabe reef off Tauranga on October 5. An estimated 350 tonnes of oil has already spilled from the Rena into waters off the Bay of Plenty coast and spread up towards East Cape.

The whole Bay - and particularly the area between White Island and the Hikurangi trench off the Gisborne side - is an earthquake zone. They happen regularly, so often, every few months, that I've come to take them for granted. Unfortunately the NZ government also takes things for granted - in particular the licence for Petrobras to survey in that very area so they can eventually start deep sea oil drilling if they find anything. Right in the middle of a highly active earthquake zone. Right next to an active volcano! You would think all these things would automatically exclude anything to do with drilling, but the National Party's ambition to sell out NZ trumps anything so minor as earthquakes.

The movement of tectonic plates isn't going to stop the National Party. Are they morons? To be fair to them, not so much morons as greed-mongering, mercenary corporate whores, although morons - reckless, feckless, morons - is quite arguable. What else would drive a policy of deep sea drilling when the 'Deepwater Horizon' spewed so much oil into the Gulf of Mexico without being able to be capped? When the NZ government's (non)response to the Rena wreck sent streams of oil onto the coast without any means (or inclination by the authorities) to stop it? And now - as if we needed any more evidence that deep sea oil drilling would be a ticking ecological time bomb - we have a 5 magnitude quake in the survey zone.

As for the Rena, containers - with their random cargo - are washing up as far away as Te Araroa on the tip of the East Coast and the spill is seeping its way Eastward - at Maketu. I note the TV One News reporter had a scathing summary of the Army's inaction and disorganisation compared with that of the locals when he saw what was going on (or in the case of the military not going on) when he visited Maketu.

I had been to Waiotahi beach, west of Opotiki, to check for oil a few days ago and thankfully found none. On Friday when I went to Torere beach, on the eastern side of Opotiki, the warning signs were out. However the stretch of pebbly beach had no visible remnants of oil. Perhaps it was down the other end, perhaps it had been cleaned up already, or as I suspect they had been placed there as a precaution.

The word "pristine" has been applied liberally to the coast of the Eastern Bay of Plenty and it is - but for how much longer? It all depends on the weather holding out, as the public have long since given up holding out any hope the government are capable of doing anything.

John Key's national cycleway is being built right now along the Hikuwai beach dunes outside of Opotiki. If that oil ever reaches that far there are many people who are going to make sure it will be a PR disaster for him fitting the environmental disaster it is for that part of the Bay. John Key is responsible for every drop of that oil and must be held accountable for it.


At 24/10/11 9:50 am, Blogger Canichett said...

I just heard that the company that owns the Rena had dealings with Merrill-Lynch when they were reorganising their company in the 1990's - funny link-up with John Key's former life!!!


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