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Published: 2005-05-13 00:00:00

Whitianga Harbour will be hit by an oil spill on Thursday (May 19) – but there’ll be no mess to clean up.

Environment Waikato is using the entrance to Whitianga Harbour to practice its marine oil spill response. About 20 people, including observers, will be involved in the exercise, which is based on a spill of diesel from a stranded fishing boat. The response team will be practising containing the spill between the main wharf and the marina near the Beach Reserve adjacent to the Esplanade.

“The scenario involves a fishing vessel going aground near the harbour entrance. The hull gets breached, and it starts taking on water. The risk of pollution occurs because the fuel tank is deemed to be ruptured, and the diesel spills out,” says Environment Waikato’s exercise organiser, Adam Munro.

“In this kind of situation, which could cause pollution problems right up the harbour due to an incoming tide, we will be deploying booms across the marina entrance and around the stricken vessel to contain and recover the potential oil slick.”

Mr Munro said parts of the Esplanade Reserve will be cordoned off for safety reasons, but people are welcome to watch the exercise and see how the response team goes about dealing with threats of oil pollution.

Environment Waikato staff practice oil spill drills annually to ensure they are fully prepared for the real thing. Other agencies involved in the exercise include the Maritime Safety Authority, Kerepehi transport, Auckland Regional Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Waipa District Council, and observers from other agencies.

The exercise will commence about 1 pm – and conclude by 4 pm.