Well-oiled response likely to any spill

Environment Southland's Oil Spill Response team hit the water running yesterday as they practised for a major oil spill in Awarua Bay.

Regional on scene commander Dallas Bradley said the team had spent a few hours getting hands on and refreshing their familiarity with specialist spill equipment.

The equipment, including booms to fence oil in and skimmers to remove the oil from the water, was on loan from Maritime New Zealand, and a Maritime New Zealand representative was on hand to help with the demonstration.

Awarua Bay was chosen as a practice space because of its proximity to Bluff, where spills were likely to occur, and because it was an important wading bird habitat, he said.

Mr Bradley believed more than 70 species of birds lived in the area, and would be at risk if a major spill was not contained.

"If it happened at the wrong time of year, hundreds of birds could be affected."

The team attended about 15 spills every year, so the exercise was a good chance to practise with proper equipment in case of a major spill, he said.

Most of 20 personnel participating in the training exercise, which included staff from Meridian in Fiordland and the Southland District Council, were very experienced with spill cleanup, and some had even helped in the Rena disaster, he said.

The Southland Times