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Plan fine-tuned for oil spills at "The Cut"

23 Jun 2010

Plan fine-tuned for oil spills at "The Cut"

Council conducted an oil spill exercise at ‘The Cut’ Waikanae Beach on Wednesday 22 June.  How the Marine Oil Spill response team would respond to an oil spill in this area and where the equipment would be placed, was fine tuned.  

No oil was put into the sea during the exercise, and the team used oil recovery equipment in the form of booms (floating fences) during the training session to make it as authentic as possible. Testing included configuring the booms so they made a passage up Waikanae Stream to an oil containment area on the railway side of the stream. 

Exercise Controller Louise Bennett said the exercise was about ensuring the team was ready to respond to protect people and the environment. "No 2 spill responses are the same but now we have a generic action plan for The Cut and Waikanae Stream that can be fine tuned in an emergency. The plan would be adapted to consider the weather, tides and how fast the oil was moving.”

“Two exercises are carried out each year and are funded by Maritime New Zealand. Without a trained, committed team it would be extremely difficult to react.” Council’s marine oil spill response team includes council staff, and representatives from Eastland Port, Rural Fire, Police, and Ministry of Fisheries. The team has been having exercises since the late 1990s and deals with around 10 spills per year in the area.

Jim Tetlow from Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s Spill Response team was an observer for this exercise and felt the Gisborne team worked very well together. “Each person knows their job which is important in an emergency situation. Health and safety aspects were well considered by taping off the area from the public and ensuring staff signed in and out. I will be taking these ideas back to my team,” Mr Tetlow said.

“The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has highlighted the catastrophic impact a real oil spill can have on an environment. Even though any events here will probably have a much more localised impact, serious environmental damage could occur. Our first priority will be to ensure the health and safety of the public, stop any further oil leaks, recover spilt oil and protect wildlife and other environmental resources”  Mrs Bennett added.

 The last time booms were deployed in this area was in February 2002 when the Jody F Millennium beached in a similar area and lost over 20 tonnes of heavy bunker oil into the sea. An incoming tide carried the oil into The Cut area.