Beach access update from Maritime NZ
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 1:30 p.m.
Beach access restrictions between Tay Street and Maketū Point will be lifted tomorrow morning, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.
This means the public will now have access to beaches between Mount Maunganui (Mauao) and the Maketū Estuary. However, at this stage, two sections of the beach will remain restricted. The first section is from Harrison's Cut, going past the Pāpāmoa Surf Lifesaving Club to Alexandra Place. The second section is the Maketū Spit. This is because these areas require further ongoing clean-up.
The restricted areas will be clearly marked with tape and signs.
The National On Scene Commander restricted public access to the beach to allow oil spill response teams, sometimes with large trucks and other heavy machinery, to work unimpeded on the most affected areas of beach.
The restrictions also aimed to minimise the contamination of otherwise clean areas by members of the public walking through and transferring material from heavily oiled areas.
National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell said there was no longer any operational need, in terms of the use of heavy machinery, or risk of cross-contamination, to restrict public access to the beach.
However, he warned that members of the public should still exercise caution when using the beaches.
The rahui put in place by iwi remains in place. This prohibits the collection of kaimoana between Bowen Town Beach and Maketū.
"The beaches are not the same as they were before Rena grounded," Mr Courtnell said.
"There are small amounts of oil buried in the sand, on some of the rocks and in some cases submerged in the water. Oil will continue to resurface with tidal movement and will be most evident after periods of rough or stormy weather." Sightings of oil should be reported to 0800 OIL SPILL.
Mr Courtnell said the oil spill response team would continue to assess, clean and re-clean the beaches for as long as was needed.
"This may involve sections of the beach being cordoned off at various times - these will be clearly marked and we ask that members of the public are patient as we continue to work through this process," Mr Courtnell said.
Mr Courtnell said six areas of high recreational use had been identified through consultation with local authorities and beach users. These areas would be targeted for regular clean-ups to give members of the public a higher degree of confidence in using those sections of beach.
The six areas of high use are Pilot Bay, Mount Main Beach, Tay Street, Ōmanu, Pāpāmoa East and Arataki.
"Public health officials have advised us that contact with the weathered oil presents a minor health risk. However, it should not be swallowed. Young children should be closely supervised."
For further health information, see www.toiteorapublichealth.govt.nz/rena_public.
The navigational safety exclusion zone remains in place and boat ramps within the exclusion boundaries - Pāpāmoa East, Bell Road and Maketū - remain closed.
To download a map depicting the current status of beaches, please click here (245KB).