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Labour Sinks Ship Pollution Bill

12 February 2002

National Environment spokesperson Nick Smith is furious that Labour today killed legislation that would provide better protection from shipwrecks spilling oil in New Zealand waters.

"New Zealand needs to make third party insurance for vessels compulsory to get rid of dangerous rust buckets and to ensure the costs of cleanup do not fall on ratepayers and taxpayers," said Dr Smith.

"This legislation has the support of environmentalists, the fishing industry, port companies, shipping industry and regional councils. It is unbelievable that Labour, for petty political reasons, did not allow the bill to go to a select committee."

Dr Smith drafted and tabled legislation in May last year, but the bill cannot be introduced without winning a ballot or getting the leave of all parties. Labour was the only party that denied leave.

"The Gisborne stranding of the Jody F Millennium highlights the risks of ships running adrift. Currently, insurance is only compulsory for oil tankers, yet the costs of cleanup from fishing and freight vessels can amount to millions of dollars.

"The Contek II sitting in Port Nelson is an uninsured disaster waiting to happen. The vessel is in an appalling state and has failed to pay its Russian fishermen. At the weekend, splits in the vessel's side were detected. If this vessel sinks in Port Nelson, it will cost Nelson and Tasman ratepayers millions."

Dr Smith said that legislation would match Australian laws passed last April that would require third party insurance cover for any vessel over 400 tonnes entering New Zealand waters. Similar laws have also been passed in the European Union and the United States.

"New Zealand is playing a game of Russian Roulette with our marine environment. Labour has ensured we keep on pulling the trigger when a solution was offered. Passing this new law will be a high priority for a future National Government," said Dr Smith.

Ends

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