Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The 'Rena' Environmental Disaster


Ten years ago today, what has become known as New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster happened when the cargo vessel ‘Rena’ struck the Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga.

We were living at Papamoa Beach at the time and many of our friends were involved when the call went out for volunteers to help clean the beach up.

Our beach was assaulted with heavy fuel oil, shipping containers, wood, Styrofoam, plastic bags of ‘goods’ (including rotting meat), and tiny plastic beads.

The action of the ocean waves broke up the oil into a dirty brown scum with an offensive smell.

A lot of sea birds were affected by the oil, and crews walked the beaches looking for affected birds, seals and penguins in need of rescuing. 

They ignored the dead fish and jellyfish that also floated ashore.

Much of the oil settled on the beach at the tide line.

A couple of days later, stormy weather buried much of the oil beneath the sand, making it impossible to remove it by bulldozer.

Crews were kitted out in protective clothing and spent days sifting through the sand to remove as much of the oil clumps as they could.

  It was hot dirty work, and several people became sick from the fumes.  It was not nice.

For several months following the disaster, walking barefoot along the beach would result in having to wash a black tar-like residue off the soles of the feet.

The tiny plastic beads were present for even longer.

Today, thanks to the efforts of many people, the beach is once again a beautiful place to visit.  The oceans and wild life have recovered better than was originally expected.

It might be a good long-term result, but one hopes such a preventable disaster will not soon occur again.


Have a happy day 😊



  1. That would have been horrible to live through/with. I am glad to hear that things try to return to normal, thanks to all the people that did clean-u work.

  2. Goodness, Margaret. That must have been so major for you all. If more people had read a description like this one (It's a phenomenal blogpost btw) - more people would have been concerned for our environment overall.

  3. What an unfortunate disaster that was for the environment. Cleaning it up must have looked like an impossible task but ten years later the beach looks immaculate.

  4. Ten years ago already? Such a major disaster for our coast yet I'd forgotten so much about it. Sad, but I guess that is because there have been so many disasters in between. Thanks for your great photos - and the reminder.

  5. Sadly I think "people" will not learn and it will happen again. Money will always be above nature... Sad, isn´t it. 10 years... I cannot remember it was in our news?

  6. I remember it well, Margaret, but to have a first hand account like this makes one realise the personal cost of time and in some cases, health, of those who volunteered and assisted in the clean up. Thank you for this post
    Stay safe

  7. Funnily enough my sis in law in Perth sent me a photo this morning of a model of the Rena disaster at the Maritime Museum there. I remember the disaster well. It was all over our news and my brother and family at Maketu helped the cleanup there. What an unholy mess.
    I heard the Rena has been turned into a wonderful reef for diving and underwater viewing.

  8. Seems to me there's an oil spill a day somewhere in the world.

  9. Time flies! It was only a three years after our granddaughter Rena was born. So glad our beautiful beaches recovered.

  10. OH HOW AWFUL!!!!!!

    Sad, sad, sad, sad, sad.....


  11. It doesn't seem like 10 years ago but then it's 2016 since my last visit to New Zealand (which in some ways seems like yesterday). I remember it quite vividly.

  12. Such a tragedy but you did well there is New Zealand.

    I hope California fares as well.

  13. What a shame things like that happen. That is such a beaautiful place. Margaret, your header pictures are always so breathtakingly beautiful. Makes me want to move there.

  14. We had the same in France in the 70’s I remember the oil on our feet long time after the tragedy and when you bought a swim suit there was something to remove oil sold with it.

  15. En España, Galicia, ha pasado varias veces y fue un gran desastre, fueron muchos voluntarios a limpiar todo y consiguieron sacar casi todo. Esperemos que nunca más vuelva a suceder. ( nunca mais, era su lema )


Thank-you for visiting my blog. I love it when you leave a comment so please feel free to have your say. Have a great day! Margaret xx