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Exercise Black Reef, Hawkes Bay, March 2016

The scenario

The Black Reef exercise had a scenario of an unknown source of oil spotted late on Tuesday, 22 March at 1930 hours by a returned fishing boat off shore from the Black Reef at Cape Kidnappers.

The fisher reported seeing approximately a 9 metre wide black/dark brown slick extending for 5Nm to the east which ‘looked fresh’.  Early on Wednesday, 23 March, locals had reported black oil on the beach at Cape Kidnappers in the 2-3 km area and an initial Incident Action was to be prepared and assessment and clean up to be undertaken.


Louise Chilvers and Greg Frankfurter were working alongside and out in the field with the Hawkes Bay local National Oiled Wildlife Response Team member Te Kaha (TK) Hawaikirangi and other members of the Hawkes Bay Oil wildlife response team. TK had assembled Hawks Bay, Oiled Wildlife response members and the first half of the morning was spent with them running through response incident plans, response options and planning for how to handle an event such as described for this exercise in such an important high value wildlife area. It was great to have local expert, Hans Rook, there to give his advice and knowledge on the area.  The wildlife team put together an initial response action plan and then headed out to the Clifton Marine Club to put the plan into practice along with the rest of the Operations and Planning response teams from the Hawkes Bay area.

The response plan identified what animals could be immediately at risk of being oiled, both on shore and while at sea last night, what could be at risk in the next 24 hours, what were the best wildlife response options, and how to carry them out.

From an initial SCAT search which was undertaken, gannets and little blue penguins had been identified as oiled wildlife in the area of the beach which was oiled.  The gannet colonies out at Cape Kidnappers were also identified as areas to be scanned to see if there were any birds that had been oiled at sea and had returned to the nesting areas.  Given the confirmed presence of oiled animals, members of the oiled wildlife respose team went out on to the beach to collect them (after breaking into the blue box for correct PPE and capture equipment), while TK and Louise stayed behind and developed a plan for stabilising the animals on site prior to transfer to Massey Wildbase Hospital for cleaning and rehabilitation. 

The exercise was a great in the field and hands on opportunity for the Hawkes Bay oiled wildlife response team as many of them were new to the process and potential operation of how an oil spill response would work in their region.  TK did an excellent job at informing everyone of how an oil response scenario would work and worked wonderfully well with not only the wildlife team, but also the ROSC, OPS and Planning teams from the region.  Well done Hawkes Bay a really well run exercise.