Compensation for Rena disaster

By John Cousins

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An $11 million fund has been set up to compensate Bay businesses hit by the Rena disaster, with owners hopeful it will be enough to pay for most of their losses.

The biggest group of claimants, the 60 to 80 people in the Rena Business Compensation Group, will be lodging claims with the High Court, Tauranga, ranging from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands.

Group spokesman Bruce Crosby, whose business, the Papamoa Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, was one of the hardest hit by the oiled beaches, said he was sure the $11 million would cover nearly everything.

"Unless someone big comes along that we don't know about," he said.

The fund capped at $11.03 million has been established by a court order, to be funded by the owner and insurer of the Rena - the Daina Shipping Company and The Swedish Club.

It will bring the total compensation costs incurred by the owner and insurer for the October 2011 disaster to $65.6 million. A total of $27.6 million has been paid to the New Zealand Government as part reimbursement for its $45million costs associated with the grounding on Astrolabe Reef, plus a separate London-based fund worth $27 million for cargo claims.

Hugo Shanahan, spokesman for the owner and insurer, said $11 million was the maximum under New Zealand law that could be set aside to compensate individuals and businesses from losses incurred by the disaster.

People and businesses had until October 30 to submit their claims to the High Court, along with supporting information and documents. Decisions were expected early next year.

He said the $27.6 million paid to the Government was in addition to the $11 million maximum liability payable under New Zealand law by the Rena's owner and insurer. "It leaves a clean slate for these claims."

Aside from the class action by the Business Compensation Group, fewer than six claims had been lodged directly with the owner and insurer. The only hint that the court process could flush more people out of the woodwork was the 200 businesses which responded to the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce in the immediate aftermath of the grounding.

Chamber CEO Max Mason said the database was used to connect businesses to government agencies, including emergency grants to help pay the wages of employees.

The hardest hit included cray fishermen, charter boat operators, surfing schools and kayak operators.

Mr Crosby said if the claims accepted by the court exceeded $11 million then the money would have to be paid out on a pro-rata basis.

Russ Hawkins of Fatboy Charters said he was claiming $12,000 on the basis that he could prove his business dropped by 50 per cent in the four months following the disaster. He was "quietly confident" the $11 million would cover all the claims because of the history of the Business Compensation Group.

"I am very encouraged. Let's hope it is settled as quickly as possible."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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