Marine regulators and local government insist one of New Zealand's most unusual export loading operations is safe, despite claims by New Zealand First that it is a hazard.
The operation requires a giant Japanese bulk carrier to moor just off the open coast near Kawhia and collect iron sands via an undersea pipeline from the shore.
New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell told a parliamentary select committee yesterday that this was an accident waiting to happen.
He said the 175,000-tonne MV Taharoa Destiny was too big for the mooring buoy it tied up to, which he said was 40 years old and unsafe.
Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch told the select committee the buoy was not dangerous but he agreed it was old and was due to be replaced this year.
Mr Manch said the operation was closely monitored in conjunction with the operators of the ironsands project, New Zealand Steel.
The operation takes place in an area administered by Waiotomo district council. Mayor Brian Hanna said the rules had been tightened up and he was confident the work was safe.
There have been two incidents in the past ten years that have been investigated by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.
In both cases, an unstable loading of ironsands caused the ships to list, in one case by 22 degrees.