Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Godwit-damn it

This is the estuary at Maketu, at the southern end of the Bay of Plenty, where the Kaituna River dawdles through the Ongatoru estuary inside the long sandspit and provides the perfect sanctuary for birds in the wetlands. (Except, I have to say, in the duck shooting season when, the landlady of the Blue Tides B&B where I took this photo from said, "It's like the Somme out there".) But mostly the sanctuary is exactly that, and in the spring thousands of godwits arrive, having flown all the way from Alaska.

This year, though, they may wish they'd stayed up north, winter notwithstanding, because this estuary is under threat from fuel oil escaping from the container ship MV Rena, still jammed tight on a reef near Tauranga. It's shaping up to be a full-blown environmental disaster, with huge black, sticky gobs of oil already washing up on the long, lovely and well-used sandy coastline of this huge bay. There's a boom in place across the estuary at Maketu to protect the wetlands, but no-one is holding out much hope of its beating the tidal current, especially with the storm currently passing over whipping up a 3-metre swell.

We're all thoroughly disgusted and appalled at the initial lack of action and the apparent failure of any contingency plan for this sort of event. It's a disgraceful cock-up, and the environment, and the people and birds and sea-creatures living in it, are going to suffer for it. I'm angry.

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