Yesterday I spent the day at the Rena oil spill ground zero ... Motiti Island.

Words cannot adequately describe the how we felt after we circled the wreck in a small plane and saw the extent of the oil leaks ... we flew over smoking forty four gallon drums of god knows what floating out at sea. On the island we spoke to the local kids who had picked up sacks of "White powder" on the shoreline .. we walked the rocky coastline and found untold dead and dying wildlife including seals and birds ... we came to understand that a clean up operation on a rocky coastline will be just about impossible and that we were witnessing the end of a peoples way of life. And we came to the inescapable conclusion the prevention is infinitely better than cure.

Once an event like this happens there is no going back. The only thing to do is be proactive and prevent it happening in the first place. At the very least, we must say NO DEEP SEA DRILLING OFF  THE EAST COAST .... WEST COAST .. OR ANY COAST !!!

Motiti Island is the closest settlement to where cargo ship Rena ran aground last week. The livelihood of those living there has been ripped apart for the foreseeable future with toxic oil contaminating the marine food chain on which they have relied.

Motiti Island has 30 permanent inhabitants. "The seafood has sustained these people here at Motiti and their descendants for up to a thousand years," said Rangi Butler.

Yesterday all residents were told to disconnect their downpipes because rainwater collected from their roofs may be tainted from toxic oil contaminants carried on sea spray. Water is now being shipped in.

Those living on Motiti have thus far been largely self-sufficient, growing food and harvesting from the sea. "It's our livelihood. We have no shops here. That's our supermarket," said Auntie Rangi pointing to the sea. Food is now being brought onto the island.

Because Motiti Island coastline is closest to the hemorrhaging Rena, it's expected to become the ground zero of toxic impacts. It's a disaster in slow motion as wildlife above and below the waves die. Grief and helplessness is evident on faces of people whose livelihoods are forever changed as self-sufficiency becomes dependence in a short space of time.

One local Kiri told us that she's seen "…all the animals gone, all the sea life gone and the food."

She says the event is weighing heavily on the minds and hearts of elders on the islands who are looking strung out, lost and confused. They are wondering what legacy is being left for the next generations.

At this time of year many fish species are gathering to spawn and nesting seabirds are catching small fish, crabs and plankton to feed their chicks. All this increases the impact.

The island's name, Motiti, references the titi, also called muttonbird or sooty shearwater which flies from New Zealand, across the Pacific Ocean, along the Californian coastline, arcing past Japan to return to the same area to rear chicks in burrows.

So, as bad as this spill is on the mainland, spare a thought for the people of Motiti Island, life as they know it may have changed forever.

We must do everything we can to stop the dangerous deep sea oil drilling plans the National Government has for New Zealand waters.

Take action: Sign the no deep sea oil petition

Photos:

1. The oil slick approaching Motiti Island
2. Mike with Auntie Rangi on marae on Motiti Island.
3. Motiti Island residents collect water that has been dropped off by the army after warnings not to drink water from roof collection.
4. Look closely at the chest of this fur seal on Motiti Island and you'll see it's covered in oil.5. Mike checks out the oil accumulating in rock pools on Motiti Island.