Crown opposes Rena wreckage application

STACEY KIRK AND AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 09:25 08/08/2014

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The Crown has made an all-of-government submission to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council partially opposing the application to leave the Rena wreck where it is on the Astrolabe Reef.

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson said the submission opposed the application to leave the bow section of the Rena where it is, along with any associated parts of the wreck and debris to a depth of 30m.

The Crown's submission proposed enhanced monitoring and consent conditions for those parts of the wreck site below 30m.

The 236-metre cargo ship Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef, off the coast of Tauranga October 5, 2011.

It's cargo holds flooded pushing more than 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea. 

Hundreds of oil spill responders and 8000 volunteers would remove around 1000 tonnes of oily waste from the coastline over the following weeks.

But early last month, the Waitangi Tribunal found the Crown breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in its through its consultation process over what to do with the wreck.

The Crown struck a deal with the owners of the Rena, Daina Shipping Company earlier this year.

The company was to pay $27.6 million to settle the claims of the Crown and other public bodies, including Maritime New Zealand and the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

Daina would pay another $10.4m for "public purposes" if the Crown supported a resource consent application by the owners to leave the wreck on the reef.

The total cleanup was estimated to cost about $47m, leaving a shortfall of about $20m based on the negotiated settlement.

"The Crown considered a number of factors in reaching its position on a submission relating to the application to leave the Rena wreck where it is," Mr Finlayson said.

"We considered the environmental, cultural and economic interests of New Zealand and the likely cost and feasibility of the complete removal of the wreck, including international comparisons. 

"We also looked very carefully at the health and safety of salvors working in the wreck below 30m and also considered the effect of the proposed consent on the social environment. We carefully considered through this process the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi."

 "In light of these considerations, the Crown believes the bow section and debris field in shallow waters (down to 30m) should be removed as thoroughly as possible. These parts of the wreck raise concerns about impacts on the natural character and environment of the area, and have cultural and health and safety consequences."  

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 "We consider that the environmental impacts on leaving the sections below 30m could be managed through a tighter set of consent and monitoring conditions."

The RMA requires public bodies to take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi when they make decisions, but Bay of Plenty iwi have said they were left out of the loop and not adequately consulted. 

After a three-day inquest into the decision last month, the tribunal said the reef was a taonga and the Government had breached the Treaty principles of good faith and partnership.

The resource consent application is currently before Bay of Plenty Regional Council. Submissions close today.

The shipping company who ran the Rena aground should foot the bill to clean it up, Finlayson said.

He was unsure how much it would cost the owners to remove the wreck.

Finlayson said he was "completely indifferent" to the $10.3 million the government would have received if Daina had been able to leave the Rena where it was.

He was focused on striking the right balance in the whole-of-government submission which involved environmental, conservation, health and safety, and Treaty of Waitangi considerations, he said.

The submission was not in response to the Waitangi Tribunal decision, as the government had been working on the issue for some time, Finlayson said.

- Stuff

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