Tauranga mayor wants inquiry to be 'positive learning experience', not 'blame exercise'

A new inquiry into the official response to the Rena disaster will be announced this week.

Neither Maritime New Zealand nor the Ministry of Transport could confirm the inquiry yesterday, but the Herald understands an announcement will be made on Friday to coincide with the first anniversary of the MV Rena's grounding in the Bay of Plenty.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby told the Herald he wanted such an inquiry to be a "positive learning experience rather than a negative blame exercise".

Mr Crosby believed the official response to the Rena's grounding - which resulted in 350 tonnes of oil spilling into the sea - had been good overall.


More than 8000 volunteers stepped forward when oil reached Bay of Plenty beaches, which were largely reopened after just a month.

"But we should learn from it, because we could have done better."

Green MP Gareth Hughes called for a royal commission of inquiry just weeks after the grounding.

Yesterday, he said he wanted any official review to be independent from the Government, and "as broad-based as possible".

"I think there were lots of issues raised by the Rena disaster, from the issue of flag of convenience ships, which the Rena was, through to Maritime New Zealand's role."

Mr Hughes also wanted an investigation into how taxpayers - who face paying millions of dollars over the Government's own Rena-related costs - could be better safeguarded.

He suggested joining international compensation funds larger than the Government already had, tougher penalties for polluters, and lifting minimum levels of compulsory insurance for existing oil rigs.

Labour's transport spokesman, Grant Robertson, also believed a royal commission was needed.

"This was our worst-ever environmental maritime disaster and therefore it justifies the strongest level of inquiry that is possible in New Zealand."

He felt anything less was "disrespectful" to Bay of Plenty residents and "irresponsible" in preparing for possible disasters in the future.

The findings of a separate inquiry by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, an independent Crown body, are due by March.

It was yesterday announced that the Rena's registered owners, Daina Shipping Company, will pay $27.6 million to settle the claims of the Crown and several public bodies - including Maritime New Zealand - over the grounding.

That could rise to $38 million if the company gains resource consent to leave part of the wreck in place on Astrolabe Reef. The Crown has paid about $47 million so far for the Rena salvage and clean-up operation.

Associate Transport Minister and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said locals had been waiting to learn about the compensation, which to an extent would "help people move on from this tragedy".

"While the best possible result for the people of Tauranga would have been for this not to have happened, it did and, given that, this compensation is a strong resolution in the circumstances." additional reporting: APNZ