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Published: 2016-03-24 00:00:00

Whitianga residents with diesel storage tanks on their properties are being urged to check for possible leaks as Waikato Regional Council works to contain a spill.

A clean-up operation began about 12pm today after a quantity of hydrocarbon, believed to be diesel, was seen entering the sea from a stormwater pipe at the Whitianga marina.

The regional council’s Whitianga-based harbourmaster responded by setting up sorbent booms to contain the spill. The booms will remain in place overnight, with additional equipment being sent to the Coromandel Peninsula to help with the response.

Regional on-scene commander Dave Lovatt said the wet weather on the Coromandel had made the response difficult.

“Heavy rain is pushing the diesel through the stormwater system and into the sea, which is making our response more difficult. However, the rain may end up helping to minimise the impact of the diesel on the environment,” Mr Lovatt said.

He added: “It’s unknown at this stage how much diesel has spilled from the stormwater system, but if the discharge continues it could have an impact on the environment.

“Thames-Coromandel District Council staff have been working to trace the source of the spill through the stormwater system, but it’s a challenging task.

“In the meantime, we’re urging people to be diligent about what goes into the stormwater system and, if they have any information on the possible source of the diesel, to contact us on freephone 0800 800 401,” Mr Lovatt said.

“It’s also really important that home and business owners immediately west of the marina check diesel storage tanks they might have on their properties for signs of a leak and let us know straight away if there is an issue.”

He warned that intentionally dumping hydrocarbons like diesel or oil into stormwater systems is an offence under the Resource Management Act, with the cost of the clean-up to be paid by the offender, as well as the risk of a prosecution. 

Mr Lovatt said people heading to Whitianga for the long weekend should still be able to access their vessels at the marina.