Businesses hurt by Rena

By John Cousins

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Maui Ocean Products owner Simon Marshall.
Maui Ocean Products owner Simon Marshall.

Business owners have been effected by the Rena grounding in 2011.

Papamoa Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
ParkOne of Tauranga's biggest holiday parks lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when TV pictures of oil-covered beaches caused a massive drop in business.

Papamoa Beach Top 10 Holiday Park spokesman Bruce Crosby said their phones went nuts from people cancelling their Christmas bookings as soon as news of the grounding came out.

The flow-on effects from the Rena disaster, including lost follow-up bookings from holidaymakers, meant they were only now getting back to where they should be, he said.

He said it was the attitude being shown by the Rena insurer that got up his nose. "I can't believe why they are playing hard ball with us ... we suffered honest losses."

He said that no matter what they ended up getting back from the ship's insurer they would still lose because of all the stress and effort that went into trying to persuade people not to cancel their bookings and reversing the impact of the publicity.

Mr Crosby was not prepared to put a figure on how much they lost except to say they were one of the biggest claimants with lost earnings totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"We are not down massively, but why should we suffer."

They were able to back up their compensation claim using records going back many years, he said.

Fishing 4 Less
A Tauranga bait and tackle retailer was forced to put his business onto wheels rather than go bankrupt because of the Rena disaster.

Ash Douch was trading as Fishing 4 Less in Newton St, Mount Maunganui, when the grounding threw his business into a downward spiral.

"It was like someone had thrown a switch," he said of the suddenness of the impact.

All the money and time he had invested in the business since 2009 was "lost absolutely" when customers stopped coming through the doors because no one was taking their boats out.

Sales dropped two-thirds to only $8000 for October after Rena grounded on October 5, 2011. The figures were similarly bleak for November when turnover was down $12,000 on a year earlier, and bottomed out in December when sales dropped $19,000. By February 2012 he was still trading $9000 behind the previous year and, as the slowdown hit in winter, Mr Douch opted to cut his overheads and become a mobile trader rather than go bankrupt, branding himself as Centurion Fishing Supplies.

A competitor at the other end of Newton St, Big Fish, closed up within 12 weeks of the Rena hitting Astrolabe Reef. And the jitters continued long after the grounding. News reports of containers falling into the sea had a knock-on effect because boaties could not claim on their insurance policies if they hit a container, he said.

Fat Boy Charters
A Tauranga charter boat operator watched helplessly as his business dropped by half in the aftermath of the Rena grounding.

It was lean pickings for Russ Hawkins of Fat Boy Charters as a flood of cancellations came in and he was forced off the water because of insurance problems if he hit a container or his engine sucked up floating oil.

"People were cancelling way in advance," he said.

Mr Hawkins is claiming $25,000 compensation through the High Court when his earnings dropped by 50 per cent in the four months following October 5.

The unknown factor was how much better his balance sheet would have looked if the Rena had not taken a shortcut. It grounded during the Rugby World Cup match when the country was packed with visitors. "When people are on holiday they want to spend money, but they didn't come here."

The impact on his and other charter boat operators' businesses was also felt during what was traditionally their busiest time of the year.

Maui Ocean Products
The tap turned off Maui Ocean Products when commercial and recreational fishermen abandoned the Bay's offshore waters after the Rena ploughed into Astrolabe Reef.

Owner Simon Marshall said he was about $150,000 out of pocket from the grounding when nearly all Tauranga's commercial fleet headed for other New Zealand ports, well away from floating oil and containers. Only a couple of boats were left fishing around the Rena exclusion zone.

"It turned off the tap for our business," he said.

Selling to the recreational boating market also took a big hit because of insurance risks if they ventured out into the Bay.

"The whole industry came to a standstill for the summer."

Mr Marshall said the drop in turnover was huge for the first three months and "$150,000 was a hard pill to swallow. It took nearly 12 months to get turnover back to where it used to be. It affected us massively".

Measures to combat the downtown included extra advertising and selling seasonal goods at cost or below cost.

The long-term consequence was that some people who left the area had never returned and trawlers were still encountering debris that ripped their nets along areas of the coast where nothing used to be, he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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