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Diesel spill threatens rare whio

Whio, native New Zealand blue duck In September 2013 a diesel spill occurred on the Turoa skifield when a tank leaked at the Ruapehu alpine lifts.

An estimated 1,500 litres or more of diesel leached into nearby Makotuku stream. Being the primary water source for local town Raetihi, the town’s water supply was closed off whilst the incident was investigated.

In contrast to marine oil spills, which have a 3-Tier system with overall leadership by Maritime New Zealand, land-based oil spills are managed by Regional Councils, with a different grading system and response structure.  The Massey University Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT) was notified by the council, who quickly sent out information to local veterinarians and farmers in case of diesel ingestion or contact. The Wildbase Oil Response team was on standby to assist with any native animal oiling. 

Although native wildlife at risk from the spill including the endangered whio (blue duck Hymenolaius malacorhynchos), there were no reports of oiling of any animals and the response is now in the monitoring phase.

Find out more about land-based vs water-based oil spills.

Thanks to Greg Bevin (Horizons Regional Council), Anne-Marie Westcott (Ruapehu District Council) and Mick Courtnell (Maritime New Zealand) for information for this article.

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