Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Political spill

Politics: There’s simply no way to talk about the grounding off Tauranga of the ship MV Rena without talking about politics. While the specific cause of the grounding is yet to be determined, the utter failure and incompetence of John Key’s National Party government is obvious.

The ship sat stuck for four days in calm seas before the government made any move in the disaster, and by then the weather and seas were turning worse. The government had an offer to help unload the fuel oil from the ship in those four days but declined because, they said, it would’ve taken 17 trips.

So, instead of taking away as much of the fuel oil as possible, they waited: Rough seas meant they could only get a tiny percentage of the oil removed. It started washing up on shore. The government told people to stay away and not to try cleaning the beach. A day later—several days after the grounding—professionals finally arrived to clean the beach.

Now containers are falling off the ship and an enormous crack has appeared, meaning that it’s probably inevitable that the ship will break open and more—most?—of its fuel oil will wash up on Tauranga beaches.

There is a species of shore bird that has only 40 individuals left. At least five of them live in the affected area, meaning that 12% of the remaining population of those birds may be lost in this disaster.

The total financial liability for the ship’s owner will max out at about $14 million, meaning the New Zealand taxpayer will have to pay all the rest of the costs—in a bad economy.

How can anyone not blame John Key’s National Party Government for this clown-car circus of utter incompetence? John Key’s government could have acted sooner, but refused to do so. Everyone in New Zealand will pay—literally and figuratively—for Key’s and National’s incompetence.

I’m sure that John and the boys in National will try to blame everyone else for their party’s failures. They will say that successive governments failed to set appropriate policy (in other words, they’ll blame it on Labour). If they really try to make those excuses, they’ll be totally dishonest in the extreme.

First, National is in government NOW, and it’s their responsibility for the way government runs. Second, this is the same party that’s pushing offshore deep-sea drilling saying, “trust us—nothing could possibly go wrong!” even though they knew damn well that there was no plan in place to deal with such disasters.

New Zealand has some 14,000 km of coastline, and is heavily dependent on sea trade, but it has no strategy for dealing with a disaster like this. John Key and National were utterly out of their depth when trying to improvise a response on the fly. And we’re supposed to trust them with deep sea drilling? Not bloody likely.

If Labour forms the next government, it will definitely change policies in this area. Since Labour would likely be in coalition with the Greens, we can be sure of a more serious and grown-up approach to environmental policy.

This is yet another reason why we need to change the government.


Roger Owen Green said...

I'll grant that there was incompetence here, but is it 'political' in the partisan sense of the word? Would Labour have responded more quickly? And how does one know?

I felt the same way about the BP oil spill with the govt ceding the cleanup to the company, until it realized that BP didn't know what the f@#$ it was doing. Would Bush done better? Or McCain?

Arthur Schenck said...

We can't know for sure whether Labour would have responded more quickly, but with an election only weeks away, I'm betting they would have, since they've always been more aware of those, for better or worse.

Labour increased the funding for Maritime New Zealand, the agency in charge, but the National Party Government froze it for five years. So, in real terms, the National Party cut the budget of the agency. That is entirely National's fault.