Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Businesses join the queue to sue over cost of Rena wreck

Tenders are being called for the removal of the Rena wreckage from the Astrolabe Reef. Photo / Maritime NZ
Tenders are being called for the removal of the Rena wreckage from the Astrolabe Reef. Photo / Maritime NZ

A class-action lawsuit against the owners of the Rena by businesses left out of pocket after the disastrous reef collision has gathered pace, with more claimants joining it and plans for a QC to possibly take up the case.

Salvage of the container ship, grounded in the Bay of Plenty, reaches a transition point this weekend when salvors Svitzer and Smit leave Tauranga at the end of their contract.

A team of legal advisers - representing more than 30 claimants - who have so far worked for free have engaged a firm to make an economic impact assessment.

Tauranga barrister Nicole Smith, a member of the team, said a Queen's Counsel she could not yet name had signalled his support for the case, but was yet to commit.

"There are more and more claimants ... who as they see what is happening and have been speaking to others in the community have decided to get on board," she said.

"Of course, they would certainly prefer an early and good settlement, but if that can't be achieved, they are prepared to stay in there."

Nevan Lancaster, whose Mt Maunganui kayak-hire business lost more than $5000 because of the disaster and who rallied other companies for the lawsuit, hoped most of the paperwork would be completed soon.

In January, the Bay of Plenty tourism industry put losses from the Rena at up to $1.2 million a day.

Fifty-five per cent of tourist operators were affected by the disaster, and 70 per cent said business was down over the Christmas-New Year period and they expected the Rena disaster to continue to affect their businesses for 18 months.

One marine operator had closed and another had lost $50,000, two accommodation providers were down $148,000 and $9000, a grocery retailer had lost $109,000 and a sports event $15,000.

The Government, which has spent nearly $40 million over the disaster, is pursuing its own prosecution against Rena owner Dayna Shipping, which is to reappear in court next month.

The first phase of the salvage - removing the Rena's oil and accessible containers - has ended after eight months, a month ahead of schedule.

All accessible containers in the bow section have been removed, leaving a few damaged or empty containers in the section that remains stuck on Astrolabe Reef, which the ship hit on 5 October last year.

Tenders for the job of removing the hull from the reef are being called, and recovery specialist Braemar Howells has taken on a bigger role.

As well as removing container debris, the company will start retrieving containers from the seabed.

A spokesman for the Rena's owners said no recoverable oil remained at the site.

- Additional reporting: Bay of Plenty Times

- NZ Herald

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