Sunday, October 6, 2013

Rena’s little blue victims honored

As the two year anniversary of the Rena grounding approaches this Saturday artists are getting ready to unveil a commemorate stone carving to honour the little blue penguins that suffered in the oil spill.

A first of its kind, the intricate Oamaru stone carving features 16 penguins being released back into the ocean from Mount Maunganui Main Beach in the wake of one of the country’s biggest environmental disasters.

An Oamaru stone carving will be installed at Moturiki Island to honour the little blue penguins affected by the Rena oil spill.

The stone sculpture will be installed atop of a plinth of salvaged wood from the Rena at ’Shark Alley’ at Moturiki Island to honour the more than 300 little blue penguins oiled in the spill in 2011. It features the final release of penguins in February 2012.

The commemoration comes almost two years since the Liberian flagged cargo ship ran aground on Astrolabe Reef about 25km off the coast of Tauranga on October 5 – spilling more than 350 tonnes of oil into the Bay of Plenty waters.

Sculpted by renowned Bay of Plenty artist Peter Cramond, the 1300×600×400metre stone sculpture titled "The Sea’s That Way" is being donated by the Tauranga-based New Zealand Garden and Art Festival Trust to Tauranga City Council.

Peter created the sculpture as part of the Craigs Investment Partners Sculpture Symposium, a NZ Garden and Art Festival Trust and Tauranga City Council Public Art Partnership.

Festival director John Beech says the trust wants to give back to the community and mark the tragic Rena event with a permanent commemorative artwork so that it is never forgotten.

“We are thrilled that Tauranga City Council has come on board to wholeheartedly support this. It’s great to see this all come to fruition,” says John.

"The foresight of the trust to purchase this special artwork means we now have a permanent commemorative site to mark what was a tragic event. The community really pulled together during the disaster and this is an opportunity to come together again."

A purposely constructed Wildlife Response Centre in Te Maunga, established after the grounding, cared for hundreds of birds including about 340 little blue penguins. It was a sanctuary and rehabilitation centre for oiled birds to be cleaned, bathed and rejuvenated before being released back into their natural habitats around Rabbit and Motiti Islands, and Mauao.

Since the grounding a total of 1003 containers have been removed from the Rena, many washed ashore scattering debris including meat patties, noodles, milk powder and miniature polymer plastic beads across the sands.

Salvors have worked for almost two years cleaning up the reef and reducing the wreckage down to one metre below the waterline.

Peter says he drew inspiration from the raw emotion and first hand experiences felt in the days after the cargo ship grounded.

“There was a time when I just couldn’t talk to anybody because it was an emotional thing that I felt,” says Peter.

He admits when the ship hit the reef it was a “hell of a shock.”

“The beach is my family and I have lived here for well on 40 years. I go to the beach every day to recharge and listen and watch nature; this crash destroyed all these beautiful feelings I had.”

Tauranga City Mayor Stuart Crosby is pleased council have worked closely with the festival trust since being approached last year in what is a pertinent and relevant sculpture.

“It’s going to be a fantastic recognising two years since the Rena grounding. The sculpture is particularly special because it recognises our regard to the wildlife and all of the volunteers at the wildlife centre who helped these penguins and other animals be released again,” says Stuart.
He says the during the last two years the Bay of Plenty community has put in a tremendous amount of effort, but there is still a number of significant issues to be dealt with.

“It’s still a long way to go and there are still some issues to be resolved, for example, compensation and what is going to happen with the remnant part of the wreck and that will be a significant discussion. 

The sculpture will be installed by crane on Thursday before the official unveiling ceremony including the Mayor, dignitaries, local iwi and the public, at 2.30pm on Saturday.

Artist Peter Crammond carves the Oamaru stone to honour the little blue penguins. Photo: Liz French

The first release of little blue penguins at Mount Maunganui Main Beach. Photo: Tracy Hardy.

The sculpture. Photo: Liz French


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