2 Oct 2012

$27m compo for Rena a good deal, says PM

8:30 pm on 2 October 2012

Prime Minister John Key says a $27.6m settlement reached with the owners of the wrecked container ship Rena is a good deal, even though it's well short of what the grounding cost the country.

The Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty almost exactly a year ago, spilling containers and hundreds of tonnes of oil into the sea.

The agreement requires Daina Shipping, a subsidiary of the Greek-based company Costamare, to pay $27.6 million for costs incurred in the clean-up.

Salvage cranes working on the Rena in May.

Salvage cranes working on the Rena in May. Photo: SMIT AND SVITZER

Transport Minister Gerry Browlee says the grounding has cost the Government about $47 million so far.

He and Mr Key point out, however, that liability was limited to $11.3 million, "so we've done a lot better than that," Mr Key says, "and the legal advice we had was that if we pursued the matter through the courts it would take a long time, cost a lot of money and not necessarily be very successful."

Mr Brownlee says much of the cost to the Government would have been money spent anyway, on such things as employment and the operation of Maritime New Zealand.

Since the accident, he says, the owners have behaved "pretty responsibly all the way through".

Maritime New Zealand satisfied

Maritime New Zealand says the best possible settlement was reached through nine months of hard negotiation.

Chief executive Keith Manch says negotiation was a much better option than legal action and the owners have in the end paid more than they were legally required to pay.

The agreement settles the claims of not only the Crown and Maritime New Zealand but the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Minister of Local Government (as the territorial authority for Motiti Island) and the Transport Agency.

More to come if wreck remains

If Daina Shipping and the insurers of the Rena, the Swedish Club, get a resource consent to leave part of the wreck in place, a further $10.4 million - reflecting the reduced cost of salvage - will be paid.

The Government says that money would go to community projects in Bay of Plenty.

Hinting that the wreck could become a tourist attraction, Mr Key says what's left of it could stay where it is, below the waterline.

Under maritime law, the owners are obliged to remove the wreck. But historically most wrecks are too expensive to lift off the seabed and are usually only removed if they lie in the path of a major shipping lane, as the interisland ferry Wahine did.

Mayor wants businesspeople compensated

Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby says it's a relief the settlement has been reached out of court but it's disappointing the taxpayer will still have to pay.

He says the next stage he would like to see completed is compensation to businesspeople financially affected by the grounding.

Tauranga charter boat operator Graeme Butler says his business has taken a real hit since the Rena stranded - he estimates it to be down by about 70% - and he's hoping to get some compensation.