Lessons learned from the MV Rena: Reimagining maritime and resource management law
Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/16358
The main research question in this thesis is what lessons can Aotearoa New Zealand learn from the MV Rena grounding accident? This research is an historical account of the legal framework existing at the time of the MV Rena grounding. In addition, the thesis will outline the surrounding marine environment to examine the relevant regulatory system. In the early morning of 5th October 2011, the MV Rena vessel struck Ōtāiti (Astrolabe Reef). Initially, the accident concerned a response to the safety of the crew on board the MV Rena. However, the seriousness of the damage to the hull with part of Ōtāiti reef protruding through the keel, presented issues concerning the recovery strategy for the vessel and cargo from the coastal marine area. The MV Rena grounding released oil, cargo, and equipment into the surrounding marine environment of Ōtāiti. The oil, cargo and equipment travelled by the ocean currents, spreading across large areas of the ocean. This caused environmental effects across the coastal marine area in the Bay of Plenty region. The grounding was the “worst maritime environmental disaster” Aotearoa New Zealand had ever seen. The government of the day and the MV Rena owner are committed to international obligations for preparing and responding to maritime disasters and marine pollution. However, the government of Aotearoa New Zealand was not a party to international obligations addressing groundings relative to bunker oil. In addition, when responding to environmental effects from the grounding the legal processes regulating the maritime and resource management system, caused distress to the local community in the Bay of Plenty region. Specifically, the people of Motiti Island (“Motiti”), relative to preserving and protecting their cultural and spiritual relationship with Ōtāiti and Motiti. An analysis of maritime and resource management law at the international level and domestic level is explored in this thesis. Such as, marine pollution, and indigenous peoples’ rights (iwi Māori) in connection with the Maritime Transport Act 1994, the Resource Management Act 1991, the Waitangi Tribunal process and related planning and policy instruments. The research concludes that, had the government of the day ratified relevant conventions prior to the MV Rena grounding incident, the outcome of the location of the ship may have been a completely different result, such as a full wreck removal, without opposition. Additionally, the research concludes that the gap in the laws regulating marine environments did not equip iwi Māori with protecting their interests, resulting in a spiritual injustice to the people of Motiti. This research reveals that maritime and resource management law still has a long way to go with supporting the indigenous people’s voice in Aotearoa New Zealand for sustainable marine solutions. This thesis conclude with recommendations directed at better maritime and resource management regulations and indigenous peoples’ involvement.
The University of Waikato
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