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Published: 2001-09-06 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s oil spill response team will be in action tomorrow dealing with a major oil spill in the sea near Whitianga – but it will be all mopped up by lunchtime.

The team is carrying out Exercise Flat Top – a desktop exercise designed to test the Council’s oil spill incident response capabilities.

Environment Waikato is responsible for dealing with oil spills which are beyond the capabilities of the spiller. If the spill is any larger or more serious, it becomes the responsibility of the Maritime Safety Authority.

In the scenario for the exercise, a deep sea fishing trawler is sailing from Tauranga to Auckland and suffers severe engine failure. It drifts towards Ohinau Island off Opito Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula and hits the shoreline, spilling large amounts of diesel into the sea along the coast.

The response team will have to set up an incident command centre and make instant decisions to deal with the spill, based on changing weather and other conditions which they are faced with throughout the exercise.

Organiser, natural hazards officer Adam Munro said it was important to test people’s skills and the organisation’s response capabilities before a real incident occurred to ensure any problems could be identified and dealt with.

The Waikato Region had a large amount of sea coast to administer, which posed a constant potential for spills.

“If we can test these responses in a realistic exercise, we are confident of handling spills when they occur in reality.”

The exercise will involve about 20 staff from both the Regional Council and from other agencies and advisers involved in oil spill response.