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Rena owners charged over discharge

Published: 6:07AM Thursday April 05, 2012 Source: ONE News

Maritime New Zealand has charged the owner of the stricken Rena.

Greece-based Daina Shipping Co has been charged under the Resource Management Act relating to the "discharge of harmful substances from ships" in the coastal marine area.

The Rena grounded on the Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga six months ago today.

The vessel snapped in half on January 9, and the two sections of the vessel had been resting on the Astrolabe Reef.

The charge carries a maximum fine of $600,000 and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.

The charge was laid in the Tauranga District Court and is expected to have its first call on May 25.

It follows the guilty pleas by the captain and navigation officer of the Rena in February. The pair pleaded guilty to 10 out of the 11 charges laid by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

The two men are set to be sentenced in the Tauranga District Court on May 25.

'Not enough' say Greens and Labour

Maritime New Zealand's move to charge the owners of the broken Rena is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough, according to Labour and the Green Party.

They are calling for laws to be adjusted so the total cost of cleaning up an environmental disaster is covered by the perpetrator, rather than the taxpayer.

"The total cost of the clean-up is estimated at $130 million but the maximum fine under the RMA is only $600,000," said Green Party oceans spokesperson Gareth Hughes.

"Taxpayers are footing the clean-up bill because our laws and regulations are inadequate for recouping the full costs."

Labour's Environment spokesperson Grant Robertson said they had urged the Government to sign an international convention setting out compensation costs in the event of a major environmental disaster for the past four years.

Australia and Canada are among the countries who have signed up to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage.

Robertson said it was now too late for the Rena's owner to cover the total cost of the clean-up which is estimated to have already reached $27.5 million.

Threat Rena will leak more oil

Coastal communities are on the lookout again this morning as MNZ warns of more oil and debris from the Rena washing up around the Bay of Plenty.

There had been no sign of oil on Coromandel beaches this morning following the release of a small amount of oil from the Rena earlier this week, but regional council staff continue to patrol the coastline.

The broken stern section of the Rena sunk in rough seas in the Bay of Plenty yesterday.

MNZ said the forward section is also taking a battering but is still firmly on the Astrolabe Reef.

A wave of over 12 metres was recorded at the reef overnight Tuesday, with winds of 50 kilometres an hour and seas of eight to nine metres experienced yesterday.

The sinking is likely to result in more debris and small amounts of oil being leaked into the sea. A light sheen of oil has been observed stretching for about 1km north-west of the wreck.

Weather conditions are forecast to gradually ease but winds will remain strong and the sea is expected to remain rough for several days.

The annual Auckland-Tauranga Easter yacht race which was expected to take place today was cancelled yesterday due to the risk posed by debris from the stricken vessel.

Race organisers said about 30 yachts had entered and while there is disappointment, it was a prudent safety decision to cancel the event.