Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Maritime NZ bears brunt of Rena costs

In all, agencies spent nearly $46.9 million - much of it in the months after the grounding. Photo / Supplied
In all, agencies spent nearly $46.9 million - much of it in the months after the grounding. Photo / Supplied

The Rena disaster cost our small maritime authority $36.8 million, according to new figures - a sum one MP says is far too much for taxpayers to have to stomach.

A breakdown of costs to government agencies, published by the Treasury yesterday, showed Maritime New Zealand bore the brunt of the financial fallout from the MV Rena's grounding and subsequent oil spill off the Tauranga coast on October 5, 2011.

The New Zealand Defence Force, which deployed hundreds of army personnel to help clean the beaches as well as four navy vessels and a Seasprite helicopter, spent $7.2 million, the second-highest figure.

There were also sums of $907,000 from the Department of Conservation, $803,000 from the Ministry for the Environment, and $490,000 from the Ministry of Transport.

Ripples also reached smaller agencies including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, spending $3000, and the State Services Commission, $1000.

In all, agencies spent nearly $46.9 million - much of it in the months after the grounding.

At the height of the response, approximately 600 to 800 people were working in the oil spill response team.

After negotiations with the shipowners, the Government secured $27.6 million in compensation and to restock the pollution fund, with the possibility of a further $10.6 million if a proposed resource consent application to leave most of the wreck on the Astrolabe Reef is granted.

But Green MP Gareth Hughes said taxpayers were still set to get stung by at least $8.8 million - something he said would never happen if the Government had better prepared itself for the event of a major spill.

The Government was left embarrassed when it was revealed it had tarried on signing up to an international fund that would have raised the cap for claims against shipowners from $12 million to $29 million.

"I think most New Zealanders would expect that when a company causes an oil spill, they will pick up the tab," Mr Hughes said last night.

"New Zealand wasn't prepared, and the taxpayers had to pick up the bill."

Maritime New Zealand had since proposed to raise an oil pollution levy on operators to increase the fund's annual base revenue from just over $3 million to $4.5 million, while a further $3 million would be drawn over three years to buy more response equipment and make improvements.

The levy-funded Oil Pollution Fund held about $12 million a decade ago, but had fallen to $4 million before the Rena spilled 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the ocean.

Maritime NZ spokesman Steve Rendle said the disaster was "obviously going to cost a lot of money".

Cost of disaster in dollars

• Maritime New Zealand - 36,834,000
• New Zealand Defence Force - 7,296,000
• Department of Conservation - 907,000
• Ministry for the Environment - 803,000
• Ministry of Transport - 490,000
• Ministry of Social Development - 192,000
• Ministry for Primary Industries - 128,000
• New Zealand Police - 110,000
• New Zealand Transport Agency - 31,000
• New Zealand Customs Service - 27,000
• Te Puni Kokiri - 22,000
• Environmental Protection Authority - 18,000
• Inland Revenue Department - 12,000
• Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade - 9000
• Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - 8000
• Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet - 3000
• State Services Commission - 1000

TOTAL $46,891,000

- NZ Herald

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