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RENA Update from Maritime NZ (209)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012 4:00 p.m.

Bags of debris were heli-lifted to a barge off Motiti Island today as the Rena clean-up continues.

Braemar Howells has a specialist on hand to oversee the attachment of the bags of debris collected by local landowners.  The barge and a support vessel went out at first light this morning.

Since Rena broke up, Braemar has had vessels on hand to reduce the amount of debris reaching the island.  Debris being removed includes plastic and bags of powdered milk.

The action at Motiti today follows site assessments over the past week, with a helicopter used today because parts of the island are inaccessible or difficult to reach.

Meanwhile, a further container has washed up on the rocks at Bowentown - the second to do so in two days. This brings the number of identified containers on beaches or in the water up to 19. Retrieval of the latest container is likely to be carried out by boat. 

Down the coast, Braemar has a barge engaged in debris collection at Whale and White Islands and mainland coastlines in that area. 

Sonar sweeps have identified a total of 27 possible containers on the seabed - the majority close to the Rena wreck.  This figure stood at seven submerged containers yesterday.

Preparations are being made for a helicopter to remove a container load of milk powder that has been manually emptied onto the deck of the wreck. The bags of milk powder will be moved to a barge and taken for disposal.

Divers continue to assess the status of both sections of the vessel. Conditions for this remain challenging, given the swells and currents surging through the wreck.

National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell said 30 people have been cleaning up oil at Matakana Island today, with a further 15 at both Mount Maunganui and Leisure Island, where most of the oil located is from the initial major spills from the Rena.

A beach groomer is being used to remove polymer beads from the beach at Matakana. One container containing beads washed up there several days ago, with some of the contents escaping into the surf. Three other containers of beads are believed to be still on board the Rena.

Polymer beads are clear plastic beads roughly 2-3 millimetres in diameter and slightly smaller than a matchhead. They're used in the manufacture of plastic materials like pipes and tubing.

The beads are not toxic but could be ingested by birds or fish. The beads are likely to pass through the digestive system without causing harm.

Four oiled little blue penguins will be taken to Massey tonight and seven, together with two grey-faced petrels, will be returned to Tauranga for release tomorrow, some from land and some at sea. Wildlife field teams have today been checking Opotiki and Coromandel for oiled wildlife, along with ongoing monitoring at Motiti Island.

ENDS

Rena Container De Vanning 17 Jan