9 Feb 2012

Barge grounding an embarrassment - Minister

5:36 am on 9 February 2012

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says Wednesday morning's grounding of a Navy barge off the Northland Coast is an embarrassment.

Mr Coleman says he wants hard answers about the grounding because he says the situation is an embarrassment for the Navy.

Six people were on the barge, called VIP, when it hit rocks off Tutukaka as it returned from Waitangi at about 7am.

They made it to safety and the vessel was towed back to shore before it could sink.

Northland Harbourmaster Jim Lyle says weather conditions were fine and the waters well-marked where a Navy barge ran aground on Wednesday morning.

Mr Lyle says captains must pay close attention while navigating the harbour entrance.

Mr Lyle says the situation was serious enough to require a mayday call.

Lieutenant Commander Angela Barker earlier told Morning Report the barge was built in 1980 and was used to transport VIPs at Waitangi at the weekend.

HMNZS Manawanui was expected to reach the scene at about 9am.

The Navy is to hold an investigation. The barge will be taken to the Devonport naval base once the damage has been assessed.