Oil spill responders practise slick moves

It was a miserable day for it, but Kaikoura's emergency oil spill responders braved the wind and rain last Tuesday for an oil spill exercise.

ECan regional harbourmaster, Jim Dilley, said the exercise brought together Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and Kaikoura Coastguard, the agencies that would be involved in a spill response.

They practiced systems and equipment use, and while some of the activities could not be carried out due to the weather, it had still been worthwhile, he said.

The plan was to bring all parties up to speed in case of an oil spill from a boat accident or similar.

The South Bay marina was relatively easy to secure because it could be blocked off with a boom which would contain the oil.

However, Mr Dilley said the team was also being trained to identify areas of the coast which would pose greater issues if a spill occurred.

Wildlife assessment teams were also on hand to practise what would be done to minimise problems to the area's abundant marine life, including seals, birds and penguins.

ECan wildlife officer Mimouk Hannan said that though fully-grown seals could not easily be rescued, species such as Kaikoura's little blue penguin could be relatively easily contained, or alternatively ushered ashore at specific points to avoid them coming into contact with oil.

Mr Dilley said that though the capacity to deal with a large spill on a local level was limited, a few hundred litres could be contained immediately. That would be the equivalent of a fishing boat sinking, an accident with refuelling or similar.

In the case of a larger vessel in trouble, equipment would be called in from Lyttelton, which could deal with 10 tonnes of oil without difficulty.

Assistance and equipment would be called in early if an accident happened, he said, simply because of the uniqueness of the Kaikoura coast in terms of its biodiversity.

Kaikoura Star