A ship broke but a community came together

By: Steve Morris

Straight from city council
A personal view,
by Councillor Steve Morris

Nine years ago, hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil and cargo washed up on our pristine Mount and Papamoa beaches. Behind the scenes, there was politics, and 8,000 volunteers who showed the world how to clean up an oil spill.

The first day it was a scene of devastation. People were sobbing and comforting each other. The reason why we love living here so much, our beach, seemed thoroughly ruined; after all, Alaska hadn’t fully recovered from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, 20 years earlier.

Mayor Crosby and Tony Ryall MP got Maritime NZ to front the public and were instrumental in cutting ludicrous red tape to get our volunteers equipped and on the beach to clean by hand. That was the key, unlike chemical or mechanical removal used in other countries, removal of oil by hand is why our beach was cleaned so comprehensively, so quickly.

It was election time. As chair of the Papamoa Ratepayers Association, I organised the first community meeting but the Green Party was trying to bus people down from Auckland to hijack it. I told them in no uncertain terms that the meeting was for locals only. The bus didn’t arrive. Phil Goff, then Labour leader, turned up and scooped a bit of sand for the cameras and left. I promptly told the media and he was back the next week to do a shift like the rest of us; albeit with cameras still in tow.

Our beach is back and it’s a tribute to our 8,000 volunteers. Some did one shift, others did many, but we all showed the rest of NZ what this town is made of!