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RENA Update from Maritime NZ (168)

Friday, 18 November 2011 11:30 a.m.

Departing New Zealand Defence Force personnel have done a brilliant job in aiding the removal of over 922 tons of oily waste from Bay of Plenty beaches, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

MNZ Operations Manager Scott Read said "Defence Force personnel have been a part of theRenaresponse from day one and they've been absolutely fantastic."

"From Mount Maunganui to Papamoa, Rabbit Island, Leisure Island and Matakana Island, Defence Force teams have been working tirelessly to clean-up the beaches. We've had around 487 personnel involved since the response began and we're extremely grateful for their energy and ability to get the job done," Mr Read said.

Commander Joint Task Force Lieutenant Commander Muzz Kennett said the Defence Force has had an average of 120 troops on the ground at any one time and removed around 8.5 tons of oily waste in the last 10 days alone.

"Although troops returned to their respective bases and homes on Thursday, 50 personnel will remain on standby ready to respond within 24 hours should further assistance be required," Lieutenant Commander Kennett said.

Warrant Officer Steve McCutcheon of the Royal New Zealand Air Force described the work as "messy hard work that just needs to be done", but said the public response had been really positive. 

"Even if people don't stop, they yell out thank you. We've had a lot of support from local companies and the community. People have donated trailers and Mount Maunganui Camping Ground offered up parking," he said.

This positivity was reiterated by iwi liaison officer Mike Borell who said "the feedback I've received from Matakana Island is that troops have been a real pleasure to work alongside".

"They formed good relationships with the whanau of Matakana Island right from the start," he said.

The Defence Force also deployed ships and aircraft to the area. A team of specialists from the Navy Littoral Warfare Support Group helped to clear and maintain shipping channels. Naval assets supplied imagery and information on RENA's condition, as well as conducting maritime exclusion zone patrols. Seasprite and Iroquois helicopters supported with aerial observation flights, transport of salvage experts to and from RENA, and night Search and Rescue Response standby. A number of Defence personnel also assisted with planning and liaison at the Incident Command Centre. 

The bulk of Defence Force personnel left Tauranga yesterday (Thursday 17 November 2011).

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