13 Oct 2011

Environment minister defends speed of response

2:39 pm on 13 October 2011

Environment Minister Nick Smith has rejected criticism that the Government could have acted faster to remove oil from the Rena.

Dr Smith told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Thursday that when the vessel ran aground on the Astrolabe reef off the Tauranga coast on 5 October, the piping and pumps needed to empty the fuel tanks were damaged.

Until that problem was fixed, attempts to remove the oil could not begin, he says.

Dr Smith says the Government will do all it can to recover as much of the clean-up cost as possible from the owners of the stranded ship, leaking oil from which has been polluting Bay of Plenty beaches

Under the Maritime Transport Act, shipping companies need only have $14 million of insurance cover. Any cost greater than that devolves on the taxpayer.

Dr Smith says that if it can be proved there was gross negligence by those on board the Rena, the Government can seek more money.

He says it is also possible to use the Resource Management Act to get more compensation.