The response to New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster involving the wrecked container ship Rena has shown the need for better community engagement, the country’s maritime authority says.
Lessons from Rena response: Maritime NZ
While the technical disaster response was successful, community and volunteer engagement including with the Maori community was a learning curve, says Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch.
“The key thing for us … was being much more active about what’s going on, what we are doing, not just talking about what we’re planning to do,” he told a national shipping conference in Melbourne on Wednesday.
The Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe reef off Tauranga in October last year, spilling oil and cargo into the sea, in what became New Zealand’s worst environmental sea disaster.
Another challenge was dealing with the traditional Maori custodians of the land who wanted to be in control of aspects of the emergency response, Mr Manch said.
“They wanted to be in control of a lot of things. Our technical response prevented that,” he said.
“We moved to a point where we understand very clearly they have got to be part of the team whereas the decisions stick with the technical experts,” he said.
“That’s an ongoing issue … making sure they feel part of the response and that their environment is being repaired.”
Mr Manch also talked about dealing with the scale and complexity of the disaster including an ensuing legal investigation, dealing with debris and hazardous substances.
“The scale of this incident was beyond what we comprehended and planned for,” he said.
Salvage operators have removed the oil and containers from the cargo ship, as well as dealing with the spillage from the ship.
The ship split in two following a storm in January and the stern sank beneath the water.