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18 July 2012
The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has completed a report on its 2010-2011 financial review of the Maritime Safety Authority (Maritime New Zealand). The report focused on the initial response and continuing work on the clean-up following the grounding of the CV Rena on the Astrolabe Reef, near Tauranga in the North Island of New Zealand.
Maritime New Zealand reported to the committee that it considered that its initial response was planned and implemented as quickly as possible. Maritime New Zealand had reportedly reflected on its approach as the response progressed and gradually changed the way that it operated – for example, it originally followed the established protocol of not involving volunteers, but later encouraged greater community involvement in reaction to the community's emotional response to the spill. It came to take a holistic view of the response to the oil spill.
The committee also reported that Maritime New Zealand has established a Rena response group that is charged with coordinating the continuing work on the Rena clean-up. This includes:
At the time of the report, Maritime New Zealand had not determined whether the owner of the Rena would be prosecuted under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 or the Resource Management Act 1991. Since the report, Maritime New Zealand has charged the Greece-based owner under the Resource Management Act 1991 for the discharge of harmful substances from the ship. The committee noted that the international rules to which New Zealand is subject limit the owner's liability to NZ$12.1 million, which would be insufficient to cover the full cost of the response. Maritime New Zealand estimated that it had spent approximately NZ$30 million to NZ$35 million on the response at the time of the report. The report noted that if New Zealand had acceded to the 2008 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, the owner's liability would have been raised to NZ$30 million.
The report also touched on the New Zealand Oil Pollution Fund, which is made up of risk-based levies collected from the operators of commercial ships and offshore installations and pipelines. It revealed that the fund had been reduced by over NZ$2 million since June 2009, as the Ministry of Transport had determined at that time that NZ$2 million was an appropriate reserve. This shifted some of the cost of the clean-up from the industry to the taxpayer, as the fund covered only the first NZ$2 million of the costs and the government has made an additional contribution of NZ$25 million to cover further costs. Maritime New Zealand is reviewing its funding strategy for the fund following the Rena grounding. It is reportedly considering setting the levy for the fund at a higher level to include a capital component so that it can invest in new equipment for dealing with oil spills.
The report also provided a short summary on various matters affecting Maritime New Zealand that were not related to the Rena grounding, including:
The full report is available on Parliament's website at www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/280C6B2F-97A0-49E3-BEFB-E0B5759EC4E8/218396/DBSCH_SCR_5453_201011financialreviewoftheMaritimeS.pdf.
For further information on this topic please contact Chris Browne or Felicity Monteiro at Wilson Harle by telephone (+64 9 915 5700), fax (+64 9 915 5701) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
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