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Published: 2011-06-23 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council has nine staff on the ground around Awakino as it seeks to contain a 20,000 litre oil spill into the Awakino River.

An incident control room has also been set up at the council’s headquarters in Hamilton

The spill occurred after a tanker crash in the Awakino Gorge yesterday afternoon. The trucking company involved is assisting the council with the containment operation.

An oil slick a half metre to a metre wide has been sighted near the Awakino boat ramp, which is close to the river mouth.

Staff are this morning looking to put in place a floating boom near the boat ramp which will help prevent oil from running to the sea and allow it to be sucked out of the river using trucks with hoses. Another site further upriver is to be assessed for installing a boom.

Group manager Chris McLay said the spill had clear potential to hurt aquatic and marine life and pollute river banks and the coast.

“So we’re assessing the situation to see how much oil is still in the river and its impacts. We’ll be working hard to try and get any remaining oil out of the river if at all possible.”

Mr McLay urged people to stay away from the river while staff worked to manage the situation.

“We’d also advise people to stay away from the oil if they come across any on land. If they discover distressed animal or bird life they should advise the Department of Conservation.”

Mr McLay said another reason to keep away from the river area at the moment was that rain was forecast and this could cause water levels to rise rapidly.