Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Rena probe report seen to fall short

Former Maritime NZ boss says inquiry fails to say why grounding happened or how to avoid similar incident.

The MV Rena. Photo / Alan Gibson
The MV Rena. Photo / Alan Gibson

A newly released independent review into Maritime New Zealand's handling of the Rena disaster has been described by the agency's first director as "housekeeping" which fails to tackle the root causes of the grounding.

Former GCSB head Simon Murdoch's review of the agency's initial response to the containership grounding off the Tauranga coast on October 5, 2011, and to the oil spill and salvage operation that followed, pointed out key areas for improvement.

The agency had at first "buckled" under pressure and needed to be better prepared for the next event, requiring greater capability, training, administration, and communication with the community, iwi, and other agencies.

Maritime New Zealand yesterday highlighted improvements it had made across these areas, and a new $2 million Government investment would further bolster its response capability.

But Russell Kilvington, who was in charge of the agency at the time of the most recent large-scale grounding before the Rena, the 2002 Jody F Millennium incident at Gisborne, told the Herald the report had not addressed the wider issues.

Mr Kilvington said after the Rena blundered into the clearly charted Astrolabe Reef, people had called for a major inquiry into what could be done to ensure the incident was not repeated.

While noting the review was thorough and honest, he said its response-focused terms of reference meant it was simply a "piece of expected and required Maritime New Zealand housekeeping".

"This review does not represent even the tiniest piece of progress toward reviewing exactly why this happened, and what needs to be done to ensure it doesn't happen again."

The findings of a wider inquiry by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission were yet to be released, but Mr Kilvington doubted these would address his concerns.

Lessons from the Rena

* A new $2 million boost for Maritime New Zealand will help it:
* Develop a wider response strategy reaching beyond oil spills.
* Clarify responsibility and strengthen capability around salvage efforts.
* Increase cross-government co-ordination, including a national emergency management exercise.
* Improve processes to ensure "financially prudent'' expenditure during an incident response.

Read the independent review here and the environmental findings here.

- NZ Herald

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