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Questions about salvage operation

By Pauline Stewart.

The 50-foot vessel struck rocks near Motukorure Island – also known as Centre Island – sometime before 3.45pm on Wednesday last week and sank with 1300 litres of diesel on board. The skipper and passenger were uninjured. This same boat has had a similar accident in this same area.

The vessel had since been sitting on a reef 20 metres underwater with a portion of its hull above water.

Salvors had been at the site over the past three days, raising the vessel on Wednesday so it could be easily inspected to improvise a plan for its complete salvage.

Background to the vessel arriving on Cooks beach to be salvaged – extract form Waikato regional Council - Press Release

The salvage team found the hull of the vessel had sustained more damage than first thought,” …. “It was a setback in its recovery, so the vessel was returned to the sea floor to enable the team to put additional plans in place.

“The salvors were back on the scene yesterday readying the vessel for recovery, but strong winds meant the operation couldn’t be completed. Fortunately, winds eased sufficiently this morning (Friday) for the team to get back on the water at dawn and tow the vessel to Cooks Beach.”

Salvors had determined there was potential for the vessel to break up in the channel if they had attempted to tow it to the marina, so Cooks Beach was considered to be the safest destination to undertake a controlled demolition of the vessel.

“We appreciate it has been concerning for some in the community to see the vessel brought up to Cooks Beach for dismantling. We want to reassure the community that the environmental risk has been well - managed and an undertaking has been given by the salvors for all debris to be removed,” Mr Gibson said (End of extract).

From the above it is reasonably clear that no real written consent to salvage the boat was organised for Cooks Beach.

The question is, was one organised for the Marina? To salvage a boat on a hard surface would make collecting all the scrap material a much easier task. One can hardly question the ‘potential for the vessel to break up in the channel.’ We can assume that this was a decision by the barge team and the insurance company. Was Waikato District Council involved in this decision?

Residents have asked this question. The Informer spoke to a representative of Waikato District Council on the day of the salvage in the afternoon when the representative first arrived, and he spoke confidently that everything was going well.

A lot of things did go well. The salvage team, led by John, worked across two tides with simple equipment. The process of drawing off the diesel fuel was done safely. The equipment of hoses, 250 litre drums and simple pump worked. That process drew off more than 1,000 litres of fuel. Diesel was not leaked. Two completely empty diesel tanks were carted away and the two motors, though damaged, were retrievable and worth something to the insurance company and salvage contractor.

As the boat was broken up by the teeth of the bulldozer, the wreckage was loaded onto dump trucks and taken to James Drainage Yards for sorting into metal scrap and unusable fibreglass, launch furnishings and lining.

The matter of fibreglass is different. The boat was in one large unforgiving piece. The bulldozer simply attacked it with its teeth to break it up. That means to some extent, losing control of where the shards go; splinters and pieces of fibreglass washed around in the waves and nestled into the sand. The salvage men did attempt to keep retrieving these, but lapping water and tidal movement cannot guarantee success in this.

Some locals were angry and said so. Others were dismayed and began to organise the picking up of debris that John and his team could not manage to do considering they needed to completely wreck the boat before dark. They had been there since 6.30am.

Residents rightly feel it is their beach to care for. The process of salvage on the beach last Friday by smashing a boat to pieces could not protect bathers and dog walkers and sea life from the hazards of fibre glass.

Some residents were philosophical; “The boat had to land somewhere, and the small barge was able to get that far. Let’s get on with it.”

The salvage team did get on with it with the insurance company in charge. Now the residents have to get on with the careful cleaning up of the beach. Where is the owner of the vessel in all of this? Where is the power of RMA to work in favour of the residents?

Residents feel that there was no communication - it was convenient for the project of salvage to be done on Cooks Beach. It was not convenient for the beach itself or the aftermath of cleaning up what is considered a dangerous substance.

It would've been a hard day for everybody - especially the dotterels. Thank you to the Cooks

Beach residents for their contribution and care.

Note: Glass in the form of fibres is still glass, though, and it cuts. When you touch fibreglass insulation without protective gear, you run the risk of getting tiny glass shards embedded in your skin. Fibreglass makes you itch and can even cause severe rashes.


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