14 Oct 2011

Government mulls support for businesses

11:57 am on 14 October 2011

The Government is considering what support may be available for businesses which will suffer because of the oil spill from the cargo ship Rena.

An estimated 350 tonnes of oil has spilled from the container ship which has been wedged on Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga since 5 October and 88 containers have fallen overboard.

Motels are reporting cancellations by visitors and the owner of a surfing school says he cannot even go onto the beach at the moment and customers have been cancelling lessons.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce told Morning Report he has spoken with the Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett about the issue and will have further talks with various others over the weekend.

He says how much more oil can be removed from the ship before it breaks up is also crucial, as it will help give an indication of how long the event will effect the area for.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Anne Pankhurst says beachfront businesses are already feeling the strain, but others won't start to feel the pressure until tourists begin cancelling their bookings over the coming weeks.

Ms Pankhurst says news of potential compensation packages is a relief to many, but there are other options that could be explored, such as paying employees of affected businesses for work cleaning up beaches.

She says the environmental disaster is a double blow, with many in the area still struggling with the kiwifruit vine disease PSA.