The owners and insurers of the Rena are planning to give $3.6 million to Bay of Plenty Maori interests to help mitigate adverse cultural effects of the wreck of the containership on Astrolabe Reef.
Six iwi or hapu groups brought claims against the owner for compensation to redress the effects on them of the grounding, including cultural effects, as confirmed by Rena owners and insurers lawyer Matthew Casey QC at the consent hearing on Monday.
The claimants include Te Runanga o Ngati Whakaue ki Maketu Inc (now sought to be represented through Mr Hemi Bennett), Ngati Whakahemo (Maria Horne), Te Runanga o Ngai Te Rangi Trust, Te Whanau o Tauwhao and Te Runanga O Ngati Awa.
The amounts claimed for the infringement of customary rights, damage to mana, loss of kaitiaki and infringement of cultural rights and interests, ranging from $450,000 to $2.2 million
Several groups who represent a section of Motiti Island interests acknowledged that it would be appropriate to address the adverse effects on the Island as a whole, including people and communities, by making worthwhile provision for projects on the Island.
This is in addition to the approximate $300,000 already paid to benefit the Island community from the $1 million fund established by MSC as a goodwill gesture after the ship ran aground, says Matthew.
As a result of those discussions, the amount was increased by $500,000 to $1.5 million. This is intended as mitigation for the “whole of Island” – including non-Maori - and not for any particular group.
The owner was mindful of the interests of Te Arawa Iwi, particularly those in and around Maketu as a result of their historical relationship to the reef through Ngatoriorangi.
It originally proposed that $350,000 be allocated to projects for Maketu iwi communities. As the result of further engagement, there has been a greater awareness of those effects and it has been agreed that the appropriate funding for projects for those communities is $1.25 million.
Tauranga Moana Iwi, particularly Ngai Te Rangi and its associated hapu Nga Potiki and Te Whanau o Tauwhao as tangata whenua, have a kaitiaki role in regard to the moana, and Te Whanau a Tauwhao have an ancestral relationship with Motiti,
But they are not considered to have the same level of effects from the wreck being left on Otaiti. In recognition of their more limited role, $250,000 is proposed to be allocated to projects of benefit to Tauranga Moana iwi.
The social impacts for the wider Bay of Plenty community who enjoy the coast are considered to relate to the perception of an affected environment due to the presence of the wreck offshore.
The proposed allocation to this group is $440,000 to support the surf lifesaving clubs that provide a volunteer service for all people using the beaches of the Bay of Plenty.
A contestable fund of $160,000 is also proposed for the duration of the consent for the purposes of furthering research and education in marine-related fields.
“While it is difficult to quantify in monetary terms the financial mitigation that is appropriate, other situations involving mitigation with a financial component have been reviewed,” says Matthew.
He says the adverse cultural and physical effects of the Port of Tauranga’s harbour dredging programme were mitigated by the imposition of conditions requiring funds to be established for identified beneficial purposes to a value of approximately $2 million.
The port project involves a consent for dredging and removal of some 15 million m3 including within a mataitai gazetted Maori fishing reserve.
“It is reasonable from these claims and settlements to conclude that a monetary value can be ascribed to the loss of or damage to customary and cultural values,” says Matthew.
The responses from iwi and hapu was mixed and in some cases changed through the consultation process, as they realised the extent of work being done to address their concerns, and understood the limited scale of effects on the environment.
While most groups formally maintained the position that the wreck be removed, an increasing number of people provided informal feedback that the wreck should be left.
Concerns were cited about the safety of on-going salvage operations, for further damage to the reef, a desire to regain access to the reef for recreation and kaimoana and a desire to move on and let the reef and environment continue to recover, says Matthew.
During the meetings the owner also sought feedback on what might be regarded as appropriate restoration/mitigation in the event that resource consent was sought and granted.
While several groups were prepared to engage on the topic of appropriate restoration/mitigation, others made it clear that they consider they have a duty to oppose leaving the wreck as a matter of principle.