The awful legacy of the Rena disaster continues to be felt by businesses in the Bay.
Reporter John Cousins this week found the number of business owners seeking compensation from the effects of the Rena grounding in the summer of 2011 has almost halved from the 100 that originally signed up for group action.
They are in a battle with Rena insurer the Swedish Club over claims lodged with the High Court, which is holding an $11million fund to compensate Bay businesses hit by the disaster.
Claims totalling $11.5million to $12million are before the High Court, just over half lodged by 15 additional claimants. The Business Action Group's claims range from $18,000 to $520,000. Group spokesman Nevan Lancaster says the insurer wants to strike out most of the group's 53 claims totalling $5.5million and only accept liability for direct oil damage. Claims from land-based businesses that suffered losses have been excluded.
This attempt to limit liability, in my view, reflects a callous view of the impact the disaster had on the region.
How can land-based businesses be excluded from consideration for compensation? How can anyone think the impact of the disaster did not stretch further than the oil that washed up on the beaches? Wouldn't restricting liability to direct oil damage limit liability to a point where most of the fund would be retained?
Tell Russ Hawkins, of Fat Boy Charters, that he was not affected by the Rena disaster.
He watched helplessly as his business dropped by half in the aftermath of the Rena grounding. Mr Hawkins is claiming $25,000 compensation through the High Court after his earnings dropped by 50 per cent in the four months following October 5.
The owners of one of Tauranga's biggest holiday parks have also lodged a claim. Papamoa Beach Top 10 Holiday Park lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when television pictures of oil-covered beaches caused a massive drop in business.
"I can't believe why they are playing hard ball with us ... we suffered honest losses," a campground spokesman said.
A spokesman for Rena's owner and insurer says it will take some time to determine the claims against the fund in the limitation proceeding and because it is before the courts the owner is not in a position to say anything more.
I'm not surprised by the turn of events.
As I have said before, any faith I had in the owners and insurers of the Rena eroded long ago after Mayor Stuart Crosby spoke out about the city council being excluded from negotiations and discussions about the Rena and was not getting enough information.
This was a slap in the face for those most affected by the disaster: the people who live here.
The paltry sentences handed down to Rena captain Mauro Balomaga and navigation officer Leonil Relon, who served half of their seven-month jail sentences on a range of charges, including perverting the course of justice, also rankled.
As did the news their employer, the Daina Shipping Company, held their jobs open.
Against this background, the owner of the Rena announced it will lodge an application to leave the wreck on the seabed.
An application to leave the stern section of the wreck on Astrolabe Reef was expected to be lodged with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council by yesterday.
However, the application by the owners would not become a public document until the council has reviewed it to see if it is complete.
It seems contradictory to me that they should be asking for a measure of goodwill in seeking permission to leave the wreck while at the same time seeming to show so little goodwill to those affected by the disaster.