Thursday 6 October 2011


Almost a week ago, I was flying back from Gisborne to Auckland on a sunny afternoon, gazing out of the window down at the astonishingly long cloud of steam from White Island's volcano, which was trailing all the way northwards towards Coromandel. There was a nice little island down there, off the coast from Tauranga, and I looked at the scattering of houses on it and wondered what its name was.

Now I know. It's Motiti Island, and it's in the path of a much more sinister trail, of oil from a container ship aground on Astrolabe Reef. The MV Rena has been sitting there, listing ten degrees, for three days now, a 47,000-tonne ship with 1700 tonnes of fuel on board. It's a powder keg that's started smoking: some birds have been killed by the oil slick already. An old Maori man whose family has lived on the island for generations is wanting to see some action - and so am I. Nothing much seems to have happened so far except for some babble and hand-flapping. The weather's perfect for operations at the moment: I want to see them out there, pumping out the fuel, shifting the containers, dragging the ship off the reef.

The sea and the coast are so beautiful there, and so unspoiled: we really don't want another Gulf of Mexico disaster in our backyard.

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