The clean-up had so far cost around $4 million. Photo / APNZ Expand

The clean-up had so far cost around $4 million. Photo / APNZ

Calm weather conditions this morning are forecast to deteriorate as pumping operations continue on the stricken cargo ship Rena.

Twenty-one tonnes of oil has been pumped off the vessel, stranded on the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga, overnight after operations got underway around 6.30pm, Maritime New Zealand Salvage Unit head Bruce Anderson said
"Considering that the oil is the consistency of marmite and has to be pushed through 150m of hose, this represents an excellent effort.

"Night time operations have given us additional lead time, particularly given the expected change in weather conditions forecast for later today.

"Every bit of oil that is removed from the damaged vessel reduces the risk of further oil spilling into the environment."

Weather conditions this morning are excellent, he said, with calm seas and no wind, although they are anticipated to change later today.

Meanwhile clean-up crews will continue to look for oil along the region's coastline today.

"We will be focusing on scientific monitoring and surveillance of further patches of oil that come ashore, and will continue to send teams out to pick up oil as needed," national on scene Commander Nick Quinn said.
As of last night, 181 live birds were being treated at the Oiled Wildlife Recovery Centre.
Three fur seals are also in care. About 1,250 dead birds have been recovered to date.

Most beaches remain closed and people are urged not to collect or eat any shellfish in the region. While the main beach at Mt Maunganui is open down to Leisure Island, there is no swimming at all beaches, Mr Quinn said
"We will be continuing to assess the state of local beaches, and if it is safe do so, with no threat to public health, we may look to re-open some beaches over the coming days.

"In the meantime, we ask people to please keep off any closed beaches and to continue to report any sign of fresh oil or affected wildlife to us."

Around 460 volunteers assisted yesterday with beach clean ups at Mount Maunganui, Papamoa, and Maketu, while a further 260 volunteers from Opotiki to East Cape have been trained and are ready to launch into action. A further 30 volunteers were also trained at Bowentown yesterday.

"The response from the people of the Bay of Plenty has been nothing short of amazing," Mr Quinn said.
"As of this morning, almost 5,500 volunteer registrations have been received, which is fantastic."

There are three clean-up sessions planned for today at 1.30pm, two at Papamoa (starting from the Papamoa Surf Club and Taylor Reserve) and one at Mount Maunganui (Clyde Street Beach Access).