Richard Moore: Compulsory shipping lanes a must

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Just in case you are misguided enough to believe politicians actually listen to us ... read on.

It has been a year since the Rena launched itself on to Astrolabe reef and had its name changed to the Stricken Rena. But it has yet to be stricken from the minds of people in the Bay who have seen what a relatively small oil spill can do to a coastline and local businesses.

The cleanup cost is into the hundreds of millions of dollars and yet - it doesn't seem to justify setting up compulsory shipping lanes around New Zealand.

Since the Rena keel-hauled herself there have been an unbelievable 11 "near misses" around our coast. That means 11 ships - two passenger vessels, four container ships, two tankers, two cargo vessels and one bulk carrier - have only been saved from crashing into something by "luck or recovery".

Now when maritime experts called upon the Government to set up the shipping lanes after the Rena debacle, they were told such routes were too expensive to set up and police.

Can you believe that?

Clearly not too many Cabinet Ministers took the time to visit Papamoa Beach a year ago and see the damage done. And not too many Cabinet Ministers are worried about forking out more taxpayer dollars to clean up the next vessel to have a fatal attraction to large rocky outcrops.

I would also hazard a guess and suggest that not too many Cabinet Ministers would take time out from their terribly busy schedules to get down on their hands and knees and clean up any oil that leaks from the next stricken ship.

And it isn't only grumpy middle-aged journos who are waving the danger flag, Marico Marine senior partner John Riding is reported to have said that although the Rena disaster had been a warning, captains had become complacent.

Mr Riding said almost every two days ships were cutting too close to land while heading to or from ports. He said it was "bleeding obvious" a compulsory GPS-routing system should be introduced.

But do the all-important penpushers agree?

Transport Ministry officials have said compulsory shipping lanes do not guarantee compliance or prevent navigational errors, but added NZ has a range of navigation technology to ensure safe passage and enable ships to be tracked.

Hmmmmm. If that is the case then surely it wouldn't be difficult to get them to keep within certain lanes. If they stray out of them they can be contacted and warned, or ordered, back on course. If they don't then they should be fined. Or are we expecting too much?

And, if the technology is available, why then are coasts endangered at such an alarming rate?

These are the questions an independent inquiry into maritime safety around our waters must ask - in fact, demand the answers to.

New Zealand cannot afford another Rena and official laziness, ineptitude, lack of forward thinking or false economy must not be tolerated.


***

Oh didn't the nationalistic whiners had a field day when an Australian company was selected to sell NZ overseas.

The bleating was worse than on Country Calendar as the losing contenders wrung their hands saying no one knows NZ like a Kiwi.

What garbage.

I have a New Zealand tourism website that details where to go and what to do in New Zealand.

It has 2000 pages of information and about 20,000 people visit each month. They don't know where I am from. They look at the articles and images and decide "okay, that's looks pretty cool, let's go and do that."

Sounds to me like those overlooked in the bidding for the tourism campaign are relying on the "we're local" card rather than letting their skills win the contract.

And dare one suggest fresh sets of eyes looking at the best parts of what the tourism industry here has to offer would be a good thing, rather than rolling out the same old tired myths of alleged greenness and being the most beautiful country in the world.

richard@richardmoore.com

- Bay of Plenty Times

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