Rena Oilspill Update : Calls to tighten shipping regulations

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says the Government is leading the ongoing Rena clean-up and recovery but his fellow candidates want to ensure shipping industry regulations are tightened and New Zealand better prepared to respond to marine oil spills. Bay of Plenty Times reports |!/LearnFromNature and

Tauranga Labour candidate Deborah Mahuta-Coyle said the Rena disaster had highlighted the need for New Zealand to be better prepared for the event of a marine oil spill. “Labour has already committed to ensuring we review our preparedness so we are able to respond rapidly.”

Ms Mahuta-Coyle said it was also important that liability fell where it should – on the foreign shipping companies – as New Zealanders should not have to pay to clean up the mess. “This Government’s negligence over properly legislating over liability means we have to foot the bill.”

In the immediate future she said Western Bay residents needed to give tourists confidence that the region was open for business and still a top holiday destination.

Greens candidate for Tauranga Ian McLean said the Rena event was a, “direct and predicted consequence” of the deregulation of coastal shipping in the early 1990s.

“The Greens will improve regulatory controls on coastal shipping, review with the aim of improving our ready-response capability for such events and promote a return to New Zealand-owned coastal shipping that uses New Zealand crews who know our reefs and understand local conditions,” he said.

Dr McLean described the Rena as a timely warning about the connections between our fragile environment and human enterprise.

NZ First candidate for Tauranga Brendan Horan said the first thing he would have done in response to Rena was show some leadership and common sense.

“The crucial window of opportunity at the outset of the Rena running aground was lost in behind the scenes arguments over who was responsible.”

Mr Horan said he would have requested a leave of absence from Parliament on the morning of the grounding, flown to Tauranga to ascertain the situation, and then informed the various ministers.

This week, Mr Horan said he would be publishing water readings for daily safety and to provide a snapshot of where things were at.

“I would also be consulting with local businesses to find what support they needed to continue to function, and following through to deliver assistance,” he said.

Mr Horan said NZ First would design a robust regulatory framework to protect our shipping industry and our precious environment.

Tauranga Maori Party candidate Awanui Black said the Rena disaster had deeply affected local Maori.

One of the key consequences was that it had highlighted some vulnerabilities in the management of coastal shipping in our waters.

“I support the call from Waiariki MP, Te Ururoa Flavell, for an inquiry into coastal cargo shipping.

“We need to be better prepared, to mitigate against risk.” Mr Black said Rena highlighted the minimal resources New Zealand had to deal with these disasters.

“I would be advocating for tangata whenua involvement in all decision making around these issues. We rely on the sea more than most and therefore our kaitiakitanga must be paramount,” he said.

Mr Black said he would also talk to the ship’s owners about compensation back to iwi and the community at large.

ACT New Zealand candidate Kath McCabe said the oil response team had done a magnificent job.

“The political questions that arise are not in relation to the clean-up, which has a dedicated and competent team, but the issue as to the costs.”

Mrs McCabe said ACT understood the Rena’s insurers had agreed to pick up the costs – which at this stage could be anything up to $100 million – and would like to see those costs include payments to locals whose livelihoods have been impaired in some way.

“While there is a fund within Maritime New Zealand to meet the costs of this incident, ACT believes that wherever possible, these sort of costs should be met by the spiller.”

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