Government’s Inaction: Ticking Environmental Time Bomb

Credit: Leonardo Lamas/Pexels

For three decades, authorities and politicians have been alerted to the imminent threat posed by a shipwreck filled with oil, which could lead to a catastrophic environmental disaster in New Zealand. Despite repeated warnings, they have consistently disregarded the risk. As Germany offers assistance and pressure from indigenous groups and conservation organizations increases, journalist Mike White delves into the alarming and perplexing tale of the RMS Niagara, exploring why the authorities persistently refuse to take action, as reported by RNZ.

Sunken Treasure 

In April, a group of 20 people gathered in an Auckland office to discuss the RMS Niagara, a shipwreck off Northland’s east coast. The deteriorating hull of the ship posed a risk of oil spillage, which could potentially harm several marine and nature reserves, including the Poor Knights and Goat Island reserves, Little Barrier Island, Hen and Chicken Islands reserves, as well as Great Barrier and Waiheke Islands. The meeting aimed to address the ecological disaster and find a solution to prevent the oil spill. The attendees were motivated by the allure of sunken treasure, the technical challenge, and the concern for the environment. The chief executive of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, Alex Rogers, organized the meeting to gather concerns and prompt action on the impending crisis.

Ship sinks

In June 1940, the German raider Orion planted over 200 mines in the Hauraki Gulf’s entrance in an attempt to blockade Auckland. The passenger ship Niagara struck one of these mines four days later and sank, but all 349 passengers and crew survived. The cargo, including 590 gold bars, sank in 120m of water. Most of the gold was eventually recovered, but the fuel remained in the wreckage. In the 1990s, concerns were raised about potential oil leaks from the Niagara, which could harm the marine area. However, Maritime New Zealand dismissed these concerns, stating that the oil had either solidified in the cold temperatures below 100m or dissipated, despite reports of leaks.

In 2005, while claiming incorrectly that the wreck had almost disintegrated, a Maritime NZ spokesperson put the threat to the environment as “very low-key, if at all”.

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Source: RNZ


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