More important is that policy ensures that the clean-up costs fall on the right parties. Maritime New Zealand's Oil Response document (HT: Anon) says clean-up costs fall on the spiller:
Wherever possible the full, reasonable cost of any spill response and clean-up operation will be sought from the spiller. All efforts will be made at both the regional and national levels to ensure that costs are recovered. The Maritime Transport Act provides the statutory mechanisms for all reasonable response costs to be recovered from spillers by the regional councils or Maritime New Zealand.
For non-tanker vessels greater than 400GRT, New Zealand law requires evidence of insurance sufficient to meet owners' potential liability for pollution damage and response costs.
It's been a bit surprising that Key didn't jump out in front on this one as Parker did during the Christchurch earthquake. A few early beach speeches on how he was going to make sure those responsible for the mess would be liable for any clean-up could have diffused some of the stick he's taken. But he's perhaps gun-shy after overpromising on Pike River. iPredict still says National will win (93% chance of a National PM) but with a reduced vote share (47.5%). Meanwhile, the Greens are up to 11% of the popular vote.
And in case Stephen Franks is reading, the title's there not because I think Rena a disaster in absolute terms, which it isn't, but rather because it's a disaster for our chances of having reasonable oil exploration where both the upside and downside risks are borne by the drillers. If the public perception of this one is socialized losses, it's harder to make the case that oil drilling would be different. But most importantly, it's a great excuse to put up one of my favourite Tragically Hip songs. Will the Hip ever tour New Zealand? We live in hope.