2.15 pm update
A commercial diver brought in by Waikato Regional Council has successfully plugged the diesel leak from a sunken boat in Coromandel Harbour.
“This is good news for nearby oyster farms and the environment generally,” said duty regional on scene commander Adam Munro.
“We decided to bring in the diver promptly this morning to help avert the risk to the farms and other parts of the marine environment.”
It’s unclear exactly how much diesel has spilled from the 12-metre private boat’s fuel tanks although there has been a relatively substantial surface slick in the harbour. It’s also unclear at this stage what, if any, damage there has been to the marine environment.
As a precaution, two oyster farms have suspended harvesting due today because of the spill after being advised of the leak by the council.
However, Mr Munro said diesel is a light fuel and breaks down rapidly when exposed to the air and choppy sea conditions.
“Diesel has a lower rate of staying around in the environment than heavier fuel oils so we expect most of it to break up over the next 24-48 hours.
“We will continue working with the very co-operative owner and the oyster farm operators to manage the situation going forward. We’ll also monitor what’s happening in the harbour today and over the weekend.”
Meanwhile, the owner’s insurer has dispatched a boat from Auckland and an attempt will be made to re-float and salvage the sunken vessel this afternoon.
Earlier, the council’s Coromandel harbour master put booms around the boat to help prevent diesel from spreading, while the council dispatched other gear and staff to the scene.
The boat sank on its mooring at an unknown time overnight in Waipapa Bay off Windy Point. The sinking was in 4.5 metres of water. The boat had approximately 400 litres of diesel on board.
Mr Munro stressed the cause of the sinking was yet to be determined and the help that the owner had provide to the council. “However, as a general comment, any boat sinking like this is a timely reminder of the need for owners to moor their boats safely and to keep them well-maintained. This is particularly important in areas where sensitive sites such as marine farms are present.”