Editorial: Reno compo a Govt failure

By Dylan Thorne

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We knew it was coming.

The Daina Shipping Company has reached a financial settlement with the New Zealand Government in respect to the costs associated with the grounding of the Rena on the Astrolab reef almost a year ago.

The shipping company will pay $27.6 million to settle the claims of the Crown and several public bodies, including Maritime New Zealand.

That's still up to $20 million short of the taxpayer bill for the ship's grounding, which now stands at $47 million.

The compensation package could rise to $38 million if the company gains resource consent to leave part of the wreck of the Rena in place at the reef.

Under maritime law, Daina Shipping was only obliged to pay a maximum of about $11.3 million compensation for losses caused by its grounding, he said.

The Rena's owners have also agreed to establish a $27 million compensation fund for those who lost goods when the ship ran aground and is looking to establish another $11.5 million fund is offering compensation to Bay of Plenty people and businesses who suffered losses.

The Government, for its part, seems satisfied with the settlement for the clean-up costs but not many living in the Bay will share their view. The effect of the Rena on the marine environment is still being felt.

Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch describes it as a good outcome for New Zealanders.

He describes it as "a solution that both sides can live with" and credits Daina Shipping Company with taking a constructive approach and continuing to meet their obligations under New Zealand law. He is supported by Tauranga MP and Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby who have also welcomed the package.

Sure, credit should be given to the company for paying more than it was obliged to but if it really wanted to make amends for the environmental disaster it would foot the whole bill.

The company is responsible for this disaster but taxpayer are having to share the tab.

As has already been pointed out, thousands of businesses collectively lost millions of dollars as a result of the wreck and the ongoing environmental fall-out and now they are having to contribute through their taxes. Even if these businesses do receive compensation it remains unfair. The Government should have stuck to its guns and pushed for the full amountof costs associated with the clean-up and salvage operations. If that had occurred the Government may have truly achieved a result that both sides could live with.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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