30 Jun 2014

Crown accused of Rena backroom deal

7:54 pm on 30 June 2014

A Bay of Plenty hapu has detailed what it calls "backroom deals" between the Crown and the owner of the Rena shipwreck.

The details were revealed at an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the container ship which ran aground on Astrolabe Reef, off the coast of Tauranga in October 2011, spilling oil and causing one of New Zealand's worst environmental disasters.

Iwi, hapu and a local branch of the Maori Council gave evidence at the hearing in Tauranga on Monday.

The Rena's bow was dismantled in February 2013.

The Rena's bow was dismantled in February 2013. Photo: RNZ

Local Maori are calling on the Government to enforce a Maritime New Zealand statutory notice which says the wreck must be removed.

Daina Shipping Company, the owner of the Rena, is applying for a resource consent to leave it there.

In 2012, an agreement between the Crown and the company was reached under which $10.4 million would be paid to the Crown if consent was granted.

But tangata whenua from nearby Motiti Island want the Rena removed. Their lawyer Janet Mason told the hearing that the Crown has sold out to the Daina Shipping Company instead of consulting with local people.

Ms Mason said this is a backroom deal done without consultation and there is a clear money incentive now for the consent to be granted.

The lawyer for Ngai Te Hapu, Tom Bennion, said in commercial terms, the $10.4 million could be referred to as a success fee. He said the public would wonder about a similar deal if it was struck, for example, between the Crown and a mussel farm owner.

Ngai Te Hapu spokesman Buddy Mikaere earlier told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Monday the group also contends that the Crown has breached the Treaty of Waitangi by signing secret deals with the Rena's owner without consultation.

"It's like saying that somebody has smashed a car through your fence and into your house, then the Crown comes along and says it will help the person responsible for the car crash to not only leave it there, but they'll accept a payment for doing so. We say we, the owners, should have a say in all this and we've been denied that."

The hearing is set down for two days.