We can’t let this weekend’s games go by without noting the oil slick coating our ‘Bay of Plenty’ shores and tarnishing New Zealand’s clean, green ‘100% pure’ image – as the container ship Rena continues to spill heavy fuel oil, containers and other debris off the coast of Tauranga.
It’s easy to blame the situation on what appears to be careless or negligent action of the ships’ officers in charge. (And sadly, some have used the fact the ship was Filipino crewed to blame all Filipinos – including those who have found a home here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
But Fr Denis O’Hagan, writing this week on CathNews New Zealand, questions whether the pursuit of profit is partly to blame. ‘Rena … is owned by one company, chartered by another and possibly operated by at third, registered under a flag of convenience and crewed by poorly paid seamen; the Captain and Mate are under arrest. Is man or profit at centre of this affair?’ he says.
He also notes that Pope Benedict in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate – Charity in Truth argues that ‘Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the country’s international competitiveness, hinder the achievement of lasting development.’
Do the realities and pressures of modern shipping absolve those of us on shore – this shipping that brings low-cost consumer goods from far away places? Are we innocent of these men’s charges, the death of wildlife, and the blackening of our shores?
Martin de Jong is Communications and International Advocacy Coordinator for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.