Rena Oiled Wildlife Response, Tauranga



The Rena grounding has become known as New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster. The incident put the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team to the test. Twelve months after the grounding we look back over some key events and milestones...

Early on the morning of 5 October 2011 the Cargo Vessel Rena struck the Astrolabe Reef which lies approximately 12 nautical miles of the Tauranga coast in the Bay of Plenty. At the time of impact the vessel was travelling 17 knots and was carrying 1368 containers of cargo and 1733 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. An incident response was immediately instigated by Maritime New Zealand, and members of the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team (NOWRT) were onsite from day one of the response.

5 Oct 2011

  • CV Rena runs aground on Astrolabe Reef, Tauranga
  • National Oiled Wildlife Response Team & Equipment mobilised
  • Work to establish an oiled wildlife facility at Te Maunga begins

6 Oct 2011

  • First dead oiled birds observed at sea

7 Oct 2011

  • Oiled wildlife field response begins
  • First live oiled little blue penguin admitted to oiled wildlife treatment facility

8 Oct 2011

  • First major release of oil occurs

10 Oct 2011

  • Significant oiling begins to impact Tauranga coastline

12 Oct 2011

  • First NZ dotterels caught as part of pre-emptive capture programme

17 Nov 2011

  • The height of the wildlife response is reached with 407 oil-affected birds in care

22 Nov 2011

  • The first public release of 49 penguins takes place at Leisure Island

23 Dec 2011

  • Te Maunga oiled wildlife facility demobilised and remaining 16 birds in care transferred to Massey University, Palmerston North

8 Jan 2012

  • Rena splits into two sections during heavy seas

17 Feb 2012

  • The last major release of oil-affected wildlife occurs by boat near Motiti Island

Thank you

Massey University’s Oiled Wildlife Staff would like to recognise the tremendous efforts made by all who played a part in the Rena Wildlife Response. The response would not have been possible without your dedication and hard work...

In particular we would like to extend our gratitude to the following people and organisations for their outstanding support and contributions:

  • The National Oiled Wildlife Response Team
  • The Department of Conservation
  • Dwyertech Services Ltd, Palmerston North
  • International Bird Rescue, USA
  • Oiled Wildlife Care Network, University of California – Davis, USA
  • Mike Short, Oiled Wildlife Response, Queensland, Australia
  • John Dowding, DM Consultants – NZ dotterel biologist
  • Captive Husbandry Specialists - Auckland Zoo, Mt Bruce Pukaha, Janelle Ward, Emily King, Rose Collen, and Helen Gummer
  • The hundreds of responders who worked on the oiled wildlife response, and
  • The Bay of Plenty Community for their ongoing support

At the height of the wildlife response, approximately 250 people were involved in daily wildlife operations, including field staff scouring the coastline to collect oiled birds, the oiled wildlife facility staff who cared for the birds after capture, and the numerous support staff required to assist with the management, logistics, planning, human resourcing etc.

All responders were invited to participate in the Rena wildlife debrief process which has now been completed. Thanks to everyone who took the time to participate. There were some great lessons learnt from the Rena event, and these will really help streamline processes for future responses.

Rena on the reef, 2011

Wildbase team washing birds

Pre-emptive capture of dotterel

Oiled penguin being washed

Wildlife call centre in action The wildlife call centre in action

Penguin in recovery pool

Wildlife recovery facilities set up during Rena

Last remaining rehabilitated penguins released back into the wild