12 May 2014

KiwiRail rejects Peters claims

7:47 pm on 12 May 2014

KiwiRail is rejecting claims by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters that it is covering up three serious incidents involving its problem-plagued Interislander ferries.

The Interislander ferry Arahura.

The Interislander ferry Arahura. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Mr Peters claimed the Arahura was involved in a near-miss with the Kaitaki early last week at Picton, and that the same thing happened on Sunday when the Arahura was leaving Wellington. An officer was drug tested after the Picton incident, he said.

The third incident related to the Stena Alegra, the temporary replacement for the Aratere, which Mr Peters said was damaged after it hit a wharf in Picton. KiwiRail has said only that a propeller blade was damaged.

Interislander general manager Thomas Davis said the claim about the Stena Alegra was wrong, and that the two others could not be supported. However, investigations into them were under way.

Mr Davis said reporting an incident did not necessarily mean safety had been compromised.

As well, staff were stood down and required to undertake drug and alcohol testing with any investigation, he said.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said all incidents involving its ships were referred to Maritime New Zealand.

However, Maritime New Zealand did not investigate all incidents reported to it.

"There have been about 15 in the industry in a period of two to three years, and we've had eight or nine," he said.

"Most of these don't even get investigated because of the minor nature of them."

Mr Peters had claimed the propellor on the Stena Allegra was damaged after it hit the wharf in Picton but Mr Reidy said it was almost physically impossible for a propellor to hit a wharf and, had it done so, there would be no wharf left.

Mr Peters earlier said the three incidents needed to be drawn to the attention of the Government so it could start looking for competent shipping executives, and that KiwiRail seemed to be operating from the script of a television comedy.

Maritime New Zealand confirmed KiwiRail had notified it of the first two incidents.