The Greek owners of the cargo ship Rena, which caused New Zealand’s worst environmental disaster when it ran aground on a reef a year ago, have agreed to pay the government 27.6 million New Zealand dollars (US$23 million) compensation, it was announced on Tuesday.
The Daina Shipping Company will pay a further 10.4 million New Zealand dollars if the government agrees it can leave part of the wreck in the sea.
The compensation falls short of the 47 million New Zealand dollars the government estimates cleaning up has cost, but Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said it was ‘‘the best possible outcome for the people of New Zealand.’’ The announcement came three days before the Daina Shipping Company is scheduled to face two counts of discharging harmful substances into the sea under the Resource Management Act in the Tauranga District Court on the first anniversary of the ship’s grounding.
The Liberian-registered Rena spilled at least 360 tons of heavy fuel oil into the sea when it ran onto the Astrolabe Reef, 22 kilometers off the east coast port of Tauranga, on October 5.
The oil polluted islands and mainland beaches and killed more than 2,400 seabirds. Hundreds of the 1,368 cargo containers the Rena was carrying fell overboard and many broke up, spilling a mess of blocks of butter, hamburger patties, sausage rolls, household furniture, deer hides, milk powder and other goods destined for export on the coastline.