Rena 'ghost birds' appear in Auckland

Press release - December 12, 2011
Auckland, December 12th 2011: This morning 150 original art prints made from a little blue penguin killed by the Rena disaster appeared along Auckland’s Khyber Pass Road. The prints are accompanied by the message ‘Rena did this. Deep sea oil drilling could be a thousand times worse.’

Greenpeace Campaigner Steve Abel said, "This memorial to the 20,000 birds killed by the Rena disaster is also a stark reminder of the dangers of opening up New Zealand waters to deep sea oil drilling."(1)

The little blue penguin was found dead and covered in oil on Matakana Island by Greenpeace volunteers when they were helping the local iwi, Nga Hapu o te Moutere o Matakana, clean oil off their beaches following the Rena spill. A diving petrel was also found.

An art collective made up of creatives from Publicis Mojo and Greenpeace volunteers came up with the concept of making ‘oil prints’ with the birds, and donated their time to create hundreds of prints.

The original ‘oil on canvas’ prints will feature at a ‘pop up’ gallery opening at 5pm this evening (Monday 12th) at 2 Queen Street, Central Auckland. The gallery will also screen a short film about the making of the bird prints, featuring a soundtrack donated by the band Radiohead. The exhibition will be open daily from 9.30am-5.30pm until Friday December 16th.

The impacts of the Rena accident shocked New Zealanders, but in global terms the 350 tonnes spill was relatively small.

In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon accident leaked 627,000 tonnes of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, while engineers spent months struggling to fix a problem 1.5 kilometres below the sea’s surface.

In 2009 the Montara oil rig blowout happened in Western Australia at a depth of only 80 metres. It took two and a half months to get under control. The Australian Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism estimates that the Montara oil leak could have been as high as 2,000 barrels of oil per day; this equates to one Rena-type spill every day for 74 days in a row.

Undersea pictures and videos taken by experts from the Surabaya Institute of Technology (ITS) in October 2011 revealed that around 64,000 hectares (158,000 acres) of coral reefs in the Sawu Sea had been destroyed by both the Montara spill and chemical substances — including the chemical Corexit 9500 — that were used to submerge the oil in the clean-up efforts. (2)

Global oil companies now prospecting in New Zealand waters have been involved in numerous devastating oil spills worldwide, including the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the recent spill off the coast of Brazil.

The Government has invited oil companies to drill in New Zealand waters at depths of up to 3km (2).

Opposition to deep sea oil plans are growing. To date over 106,000 kiwis have signed Greenpeace’s petition to stop deep sea oil drilling.



A media briefing on the risks of deep sea oil drilling in NZ and an infographic showing the sites that are due to be opened for deep sea drilling are available on the Greenpeace website

The 150 original penguin prints will be on display along Khyber Pass Road until Sunday 18th December.

The pop up gallery will open at 5.00pm on Monday 12th December at 2 Queen Street, alongside Britomart. The exhibition will continue until Friday December 16th.

Greenpeace wish to acknowledge Nga Hapu o te Moutere o Matakana as the iwi with mana whenua over the Matakana beach where the birds were found; the birds will be returned to them in coming days.

(1) The Wildlife Response Centre that dealt with the oiled Rena birds estimated that 20,000 birds were killed by the spill, based on US and UK studies which indicate that we only see one to ten per cent of the birds that are killed by an oil spill – the others simply die unseen at sea.  In excess of 2,000 bird carcasses have been recovered. The same is thought to be true of other species. Following the Deepwater Horizon spill, only 101 dead whales were reported in the initial months following the spill. However a recent scientific study estimated that total number of dolphins and whales killed by the spill was approx 5,050.

(2) Source references and a map of sites earmarked for oil exploration in New Zealand visit can be found in a Greenpeace media briefing available at