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Marine Oil Spill Exercise Puts Council Staff Through Their Paces

A simulated marine oil spill at a Huntly lake next week will provide Waikato Regional Council staff the opportunity to practice deployment of emergency marine oil spill equipment that can minimise environmental harm.

The exercise—held biannually in different locations around the Waikato—will take place on Tuesday, 14 November at Lake Puketirini between 9am and 3pm.

Senior Emergency Management Officer Derek Hartley said an area of shoreline and small part of the lake will be used during the exercise.

“People will still be able to access the boat ramp and use the lake for boating and diving activities, and the public are welcome to watch the training,” says Mr Hartley.

Around 30 people will participate in the exercise, including staff from all areas of the council such as specialists in marine oil spill emergency management, maritime safety, health and safety, coastal and marine science and communications. Also on hand will be partners from Maritime NZ, Genesis Energy and local iwi.

Council staff will deploy a range of equipment including two types of booms, oil skimmers and oil holding tanks. The bright orange rapid deployment booms, for example, are rolled out, filled with water and air, and used to contain or deflect oil. They can protect sensitive areas and help with the recovery of spilled oil.

“The equipment is large and bulky, and requires specialist training, so it’s essential to have regular training which maintains the capabilities of our staff”.

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“The equipment is designed for the coastal marine environment but the advantage of training on a lake on occasion is that the more benign environmental conditions allow us to focus on the deployment of the equipment.”

Mr Hartley says the impact of a marine oil spill can vary depending on factors such as location, tide and weather conditions, and the type and quantity of oil involved.

“Our aim in any marine oil spill response is to minimise the impact on the environment, including flora and fauna, and sensitive industries such as marine farming.”

Regional councils are responsible for tier 2 oil spills which are within 12 nautical miles of the coastline and/or have the likelihood of associated costs of not more than $250,000 for the response and cleanup.

Councils deliver marine oil spill responses on behalf of Maritime NZ which covers the cost of training exercises, while costs associated with marine oil spill responses will fall to the person or organisation responsible for the spill.

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