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Published: 2008-05-07 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is conducting an oil spill exercise in Coromandel Harbour next week designed to fine tune its response to real environmental emergencies.

The council’s oil spill response team will take part in an imaginary scenario where a fishing vessel collides with a mussel barge in the harbour, spilling more than 1000 litres of fuel oil into the sea.

Oil will not be put into the sea during the exercise, but the team will deploy oil recovery equipment such as booms (floating fences), storage tanks and rope mops during the training session to make it as authentic as possible.

Environment Waikato regional hazards and emergency manager Adam Munro said the exercise was about ensuring the team was well trained and ready to respond to protect people and the environment.

“If a real oil spill occurred, our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of the public, stop any further oil leaks, recover spilt oil and protect wildlife and other environmental resources,” he said.

Maritime New Zealand regulations require Environment Waikato to carry out an oil spill exercise every year to ensure staff members are familiar with equipment and procedures.

“It’s also a chance to fine tune responses in areas around the region where oil spills could potentially occur,” Mr Munro said.

“What we do at one beach is not necessarily what we do at another.”

Members of the public are welcome to watch the exercise happening in Coromandel Harbour from 11am-2pm next Monday, May 12, but are advised to stay behind the safety cordon.

Environment Waikato last responded to a significant oil spill in the Coromandel last February, when a 50-foot boat sank near Moturua (Rabbit) Island. The incident did not cause any environmental damage.