Rena compo claims off to court

By Joseph Aldridge

A legal battle regarding the amount of compensation Rena's owners should pay to Bay of Plenty businesses and iwi looks set to unfold in the High Court.

The Rena's owners (Daina Shipping Company) filed an application on Friday to limit the amount of compensation paid to private individuals and organisations who suffered losses as a result of the ship's grounding on Tauranga's Astrolabe Reef last year.

However, a lawyer for more than 100 business and iwi claimants said he will be opposing the application on behalf of his clients.

A spokesman for Daina Shipping said the company had commenced court proceedings in the High Court registry in Tauranga for a limitation decree and the constitution of a limitation fund.

He said this marked the beginning of a legal process to establish a fund of $11.5 million that would be administered by the court, to compensate for legitimate claims arising as a result of the Rena grounding.

Robert Makgill, of North South Environmental Law, said he had expected Daina Shipping to try to limit compensation.

"We are still gathering information about the economic loss sustained by business owners as a result of the Rena grounding, but it is already apparent that the loss far exceeds the $11.5 million cap, so we will be opposing the limitation proceedings."

Yesterday's filing in the High Court follows an announcement last week that the Government had settled on a deal with the Rena's owners for compensation in relation to clean-up costs.

At the time, Prime Minister John Key said it was better to accept the $27 million offered than to fight in the court for the full costs of $47 million.

Legal advice showed court action would take a long time, be expensive and not necessarily be successful, he said.

Commenting on the yesterday's filing, Captain John Owen, of Rena insurer The Swedish Club, said: "We are now in a position to establish a process for dealing with third party claims in accordance with international conventions and the Maritime Transport Act.

"While reduction of the wreck continues offshore, a lot of work still needs to be done. We remain committed to meeting the owners' obligations and responsibilities under New Zealand law and are pleased to get this court proceeding under way."

Rena salvors Resolve yesterday said a total of 670 tonnes of steel had now been removed from the wreck.

The new crane barge has commenced operations and was able yesterday to pick up the single biggest piece of steel yet removed from the site. An 8m x 8m piece of steel from Rena's port side weighing in excess of 22 tonnes was cut from the wreck and hauled on to the Resolve barge.

Meanwhile, Braemar Howells recovery teams were able to collect nearly 40 tonnes of scrap and cargo this week. Three-quarters was made up of aluminium ingots collected by divers and hoisted on to the recovery vessel Tasman Challenger in baskets.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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