We hear little in national news any more but, for Bay Of Plenty locals, Rena's presence is still evident...in the form of tiny 2.5mm plastic beads.
These beads still wash ashore from the Rena container shipwreck, a year and a half after the stranding on Astrolabe Reef, 12nm off the Tauranga coast. Changing currents and wind conditions have been spreading them along the coastline over the last fortnight.
The hunt for these annoying and non-biodegradable plastic pests will be intensified this week with the addition of a 'beach harp'. This giant sieve enables beads to be separated from large amounts of sand. Modifications will also be made to allow it to work effectively in both wet and dry conditions.
Rena project spokesman Hugo Shanahan reports the 24hr operation continues to make an impact, helping clear much of the seaweed deposits mixed with plastic beads between Mount Maunganui and the Kaituna Cut.
On the weekend, a 50-strong team focused on the ongoing clean-up along Papamoa Beach, while specialist teams worked on Motiti Island recovering light to heavy concentrations of beads. Specialist vacuum cleaners capable of working in sandy environments are also being used in areas where there're concentrations of bead deposits.
Last Sunday, divers from the US salvage company Resolve were able to re-enter Rena's No.4 cargo hold in the sunken rear section of the ship, and start removing debris from the partially-intact bead container, located before severe weather hit. Very brave!