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Where Land Meets Sea

New Zealand is surrounded by sea. Our coastlines and marine resources need care and protection. The Coastal Marine Group focuses on the Bay of Plenty – with a particular emphasis on the Rena shipwreck disaster.

This story is about where the land meets the sea. We have 15 134 km of coastline with extensive marine habitat. Land and sea are intricately linked, one impacting on the other – an ecosystem needing care and protection.

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This coastal marine habitats ecosystem balances on a fine ecological edge. It is dynamic and can easily be affected by human impact such as contamination from pollutants. The Coastal Marine Group from the Environmental Research Institute (University of Waikato) focuses on multi-disciplinary research aimed at keeping the Bay of Plenty coastline healthy.

Then disaster strikes. In the early hours of 5 October 2011, the 236 m cargo vessel Rena strikes the Astrolabe Reef about 12 nautical miles off the Tauranga coast and becomes grounded. The ship is carrying 1368 containers, 1700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and about 70 tonnes of diesel in its tanks. Concern for the ecosystem rises over the next weeks as the stranded ship slowly splits and spills hundreds of tonnes of thick fuel oil and dozens of containers into the sea. This causes sickness and death in the seabird wildlife and pollutes the Bay of Plenty coastline. After the emergency clean-up, the big question asked by everyone is, “How long will the environment take to recover?”

Over the next few months, we followed the scientists monitoring this environment and added their stories as they researched where the land meets the sea. The Rena incident highlights why we need to understand the science involved in environmental issues.

Useful links

For a complete timeline of the Rena disaster, go to Maritime New Zealand’s website. It also has daily incident reports beginning on the morning of the stranding.
www.maritimenz.govt.nz/News/Media-releases-2011/Media-releases-2011.asp external link

Coastal science expert Dr Chris Battershill compares the Rena oil spill to similar events overseas, and reviews its impact on the coastal marine environment.
http://channel.tepapa.govt.nz/audio/rena-the-oil-spill external link

Report from the New Zealand Coastal Society looking back on New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster after three years. This report covers topics ranging from community involvement, wildlife response and oil spill modelling, it includes a discussion on the legal implications of the incident.
Rena: Lessons Learned (pdf download) external link

The final report on the Rena grounding by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, released on 18 December 2014.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1382917/rena-report.pdf external link