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No prosecution for fuel spill

September 9, 2014

Media Release

No prosecution for fuel spill

Environment Canterbury today announced its decision not to prosecute Mobil Oil New Zealand Ltd for the spill from its tank farm at Lyttelton on 5 March 2014.

Environment Canterbury Chief Executive Bill Bayfield says a prosecution for discharge of contaminants into the harbour has little chance of success, so it is not in the public interest to pursue it.

“A unique series of events came together that stormy day,” Mr Bayfield said. “It was difficult for the company to have predicted or prevented the incident, and under the Resource Management Act it would have had a statutory defence of ‘natural disaster’.”

The earthquakes, the flood events in March, tunnel gully erosion, the proximity of the tank farm to a steep hill and other factors all contributed to the landslip that triggered the spill.

“Proof of negligence would be required for a successful prosecution,” Mr Bayfield said. “Because there was no such evidence, Environment Canterbury decided not to proceed on this occasion.

“We have reviewed the decision thoroughly and I am confident we have reached the right conclusion. It is quite plausible that this situation was beyond Mobil’s control and is highly unlikely to happen again.”

Mr Bayfield praised the collaborative work by Environment Canterbury staff in responding to the spill. “The Regional On Scene Commander, Pollution Hotline staff and a number of others worked with Mobil, the Fire Service and other terminal staff to ensure safety at the scene and minimise environmental damage,” he said.

“Any spill requires a planned, well equipped and exercised response. Environment Canterbury is working with all oil supply companies including Mobil to make sure the plans are in place, they are practical and exercised, and they cover the types of spill that may happen if something goes wrong.”

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