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Town Basin ‘oil spill’ to test readiness

Town Basin ‘oil spill’ to test readiness

A fictional 200-litre oil spill emerging from a stormwater drain and threatening Whangarei’s Town Basin will test the response skills of about two dozen local authority staff on Friday. (SUBS: Friday 25 October)

Northland Regional Council’s Opua-based Regional Harbourmaster Jim Lyle says Northland’s oil spill response preparations are typically put to the test via at least two exercises a year.

The last exercise in April centred on a larger ‘spill’ at Marsden Point and brought together around 35 trained oil spill responders from as far afield as Taranaki, but Mr Lyle says Friday’s exercise will be a smaller affair.

He says 10 years ago the regional council had dealt with a real-life Town Basin spill in very similar circumstances to those that would form the basis of the latest exercise.

About two dozen staff – mainly from the regional council’s Opua and Whangarei offices – would take part in what Mr Lyle says is a valuable training tool that builds on the considerable oil spill response experience Northland already has.

Mr Lyle says Northland oil spill responders have been involved in major events such as the Rena response in 2011 or even further afield, including the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010.

He says with the Marsden Point oil refinery on its doorstep and a high volume of commercial shipping traffic passing through its waters, Northland is one of the main focal points for oil spill response in New Zealand.

“We have a large store of specialised Maritime NZ equipment based at Northport for quick access during an oil spill event and there’s a significant amount of equipment just two hours away in Auckland.”

He says staff from the Town Basin marina and Maritime New Zealand would observe the latest exercise, which would see the actual deployment of a variety of equipment, including booms, in the area.

ENDS

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