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A year since the Rena disaster, the Government has failed to raise the Oil Pollution Levy on industry to pay for similar accidents, the Green Party said today.
A decade ago, the Oil Pollution Fund, paid for by the Oil Pollution Levy, contained about $12 million, but was drawn down to $4 million before the Rena disaster. The Government today announced it had secured $27.6 million compensation for Rena costs, with the possibility of an additional $10.6 million. This amount falls $9 million to $19.4 million short of the $47 million cost to Government.
"The taxpayer will have to pay $9 million to $19 million for the Rena clean-up because the Oil Pollution Levy on industry has for years been set too low, and yet a year after the disaster, the Government still hasn't raised it," said Green Party oceans spokesperson Gareth Hughes.
"The Government has proposed a levy increase to cover operational costs, but that won't build up the Oil Pollution Fund reserves which are used for clean-up costs of spills like the Rena.
"Essentially this means the Government is willing to use the taxpayer as the insurer for the cost of oil spills rather than industry themselves.
"New Zealanders should not have to pay when corporations damage our beautiful country.
"The Government could be doing more to protect the taxpayer against the cost of oil spills."
The Government is in the process of adopting the Bunkers Convention and the 1996 Limit to Liability for Maritime Claims Protocol to be able to recover more money from accidents like the Rena, but has not increased compulsory insurance on offshore oil rigs, or signed up to the Supplementary Fund which would allow the Government to access a $US 1.18 billion fund for tanker spill clean-up and compensation costs.
"The Government has also failed to implement the independent inquiry it promised last year," said Mr Hughes.
"One year on, we need to take the lessons from the Rena disaster seriously and to work harder to protect our environment from future oil spills."
Since the Rena incident, the Green Party has asked the Government to set up an independent inquiry to assess the speed of the Government response to the Rena grounding, maritime regulations, and the capacity of our maritime services to respond to accidents.