Kawhia diesel spill investigation

Friday 9 March 2012, 4:33PM
By Waikato Regional Council


Waikato Regional Council staff investigating the cause of yesterday’s diesel spill around Kawhia wharf say the source remains a mystery and they want public help to track it down.

About 100 litres of diesel got into the sea sparking a formal tier 2 marine oil spill incident declaration by the council.

One line of investigation is the possibility the diesel may have spilled during a vessel refuelling at the wharf.

But compliance and education manager Rob Dragten said no one has permission to refuel at the wharf. A special consent and a marine oil spill contingency plan would be required of anyone wanting to get such permission.

“So any person refuelling a vessel at Kawhia would likely be operating illegally,” said Mr Dragten.

“Given that no one has a consent for re-fuelling, we’re checking whether there could be any other source. The council takes these sorts of spill very seriously due to the threat they pose to the environment, marine life and people’s safety. We want to track down whoever’s responsible to help ensure this type of thing doesn’t happen again at Kawhia.”

People with any relevant information can call the council’s resource use group on 0800 800 401.

Meanwhile, regional on-scene commander Adam Munro said that luckily the spill appeared to have caused little environmental damage at this stage with wind and tides having dispersed the diesel.

“We’ve had no reports of affected wildlife. If any birds or animals are seen to be affected we ask people to call the council’s oil spill response team on 0800 800 401,” said Mr Munro.

“Diesel was confirmed in the vicinity of the wharf, as well as the beach to the north of the wharf and a small tidal inlet. It was also observed near Maketu Marae. But generally the extent of oiling was limited to a light to moderate sheen.

“Containment and recovery of the diesel was considered but given the extent of pollution and nature of the environment we decided it was best to rely on natural dispersal and tidal flushing of the harbour.”

The Waikato District Health Board’s medical officer of health has been notified on the oil spill. The board will issue any necessary public health warnings.

Meanwhile, Mr Munro urged the public to report spills as soon as possible.

“It’s rumoured the spill was noticed about 10am yesterday but the first call to us was just after noon.

“If that’s true, we’d ask people not to delay notifying us if they see anything like this in future.”