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Coromandel spill exercise will test emergency team

The exercise scenario is a tricky one. An imaginary fishing vessel will run aground in bad weather off the Coromandel coast in the early hours of the morning and lose 2000 litres of diesel into the ocean. Another 2000 litres remains on board.

Come morning, the weather has eased and the vessel, located between Tainui Cove and Tararu, north of Thames is now “stable”. But north-east winds are pushing the spilt diesel towards shore and there’s a threat that more could leak.

This is the theoretical situation which will confront Waikato Regional Council’s regional marine oil spill response team on the morning of Thursday 3 December. It’s the focus of the team’s annual field deployment exercise.

The exercise will involve 20-25 responders, at least one vessel and crew, staff from other emergency agencies, as well as about ten council staff assisting with the running of the event.

Those responding to the scenario will deploy booms used to contain the spread of contaminants and practice using equipment for scooping diesel and other substances out of the water. They’ll also carry out an environmental impact assessment

Besides giving team members a chance to practice their skills, the exercise is required to help keep their response qualifications up to date.

“Exercises such as this are a great way for us to ensure that all our systems and personnel are operating efficiently,” said regional hazards team leader and regional on-scene commander Adam Munro.

“They also give us an opportunity to see if there are any particular issues that arise which need to be factored into our planning for real events.”

The exercise will start at 10am and be based at Tararu Beach Reserve North.

There will be a designated area for media and the public to observe the exercise.

For safety reasons, the actual exercise emergency response work area will be taped off. Members of the media and the public will not be able to enter this area unless accompanied by an authorised person and wearing steel cap boots and a high visibility vest.

The exercise public information manager on the day will be Matthew Pryor who will be able to assist any media attending the exercise. His contact number is 021 241 7272.

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