Rena owners must pay in full - Labour

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 15:50 03/03/2014
POLLUTION: The grounding of the Rena has resulted in tonnes of rubbish and globules of oil washing up on local beaches throughout 2012.
MIKE SCOTT

DECAYING: The rusting wreck of the Rena.

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Labour leader David Cunliffe says he would force the owners of the Rena to pay the full amount of the cleanup of the Astrolabe Reef, where remains of the container ship still lie.

That is despite the company being under no legal obligation to pay.

The Government and the Rena's owners, the Daina Shipping Co, last year reached a financial settlement over the grounding off the coast of Tauranga in October 2011.

About 350 tonnes of oil escaped, some washing up along the Bay of Plenty coastline.

Daina will pay $27.6 million to settle the claims of the Crown and public bodies including Maritime NZ, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the NZ Transport Agency and the minister of local government as the territorial authority for Motiti Island.

That could leave a shortfall of about $20m on the cleanup costs, which were so far about $47m.

If Daina decided to apply for and was granted a resource consent to leave part of the wreck in place as a diving attraction, the company would make an additional payment of $10.4m to the Crown.

Cunliffe said today he would force the company to pay the full amount to have the wreck removed completely.

"A Labour government will clean the reef up," Cunliffe said.

"We will make the Rena's owner pay through any means possible."

Cunliffe said he would take legal advice on whether any contracts made with a previous government would have to be honoured.

"We would have to take careful legal advice on any contractual obligations. My understanding is the ultimate decision still remains with the New Zealand Government as to whether that wreck remains on that reef.

"My understanding is if it is allowed to remain, Daina Shipping will pay some $10.7 million to the Crown. We don't think New Zealand's environment should be raffled off like that. We think the Crown should listen to the senior representatives of local government and local iwi and get rid of that wreck by any means available."

Measures could be taken against the company's other ships operating in New Zealand waters, Cunliffe said.

"I think they need to ask themselves whether they want to be a good corporate citizen within New Zealand waters and if they decide not to be, we'd have to look at what consequences that had for other operations."

An application to leave the wreck where it was would be an "insult to local iwi, Bay of Plenty leaders and Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby who all want this mess gone", he said.

"Daina Shipping must be made to clean up the wreckage and pay for the cost of doing so."

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- Fairfax Media

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