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Tasman/Nelson region September 2014

On Thursday 18th September 2014 an oil spill desktop exercise was conducted at the brand new Tasman Nelson Civil Defence Centre in Richmond. There were 14 participants led by members of the Tasman Nelson Regional Council and coordinated by the Regional On-Scene Commander, Graham Caradus. Participants included regional council staff and Wildbase.

The location

The scenario was located at Motueka Harbour, about 25km west of Nelson. This is a popular tourist spot with high recreational and commercial values as well as highly sensitive wildlife and ecological areas.

The scenario

The scenario was based on a fishing vessel running aground at the entrance to Motueka Harbour. Two hours in, the scenario was escalated by the boat catching fire, releasing all 2000 Litres of diesel and all other oils and fuels on board into the incoming tide. The focus of the exercise was to simulate a Tier 2 response in an Incident Command Centre (ICC), including the preparation of an immediate Incident Action Plan (IAP) and a two day IAP.

The response

After a morning brief, participants were split into ICC functional areas including Admin/Logistics, Planning and Intelligence, Operations, Media and Wildlife. For the wildlife component, it was identified there were areas where migratory godwits, pied oyster catches and band rails were likely to be nesting. So surveillance and 'gentle' hazing was needed (i.e. walking the beaches and kayaking the water to try and prevent the birds from spending time in the diesel affected areas). These recommendations were made with the understanding that if any bird was oiled further considerations would need to be made for their capture and rehabilitation.

One of the key learnings for the entire ICC team, including the wildlife component, was the need to work together more. A greater understanding of what other functions were doing and how that could help or hinder your response capabilities was also important. During the exercise participants were encouraged to contact local subject matter experts listed in the regional plan.

The exercise highlighted the importance of maintaining up-to-date contact lists and regularly reviewing or exercising plans (after five phone calls a local wildlife person could still not be contacted). It is also important for regional responders to recognise that the 24-hour Massey University Wildbase Oil Response emergency phone can be called at any time for wildlife advice.

It was a fantastic learning experience for everyone and great to work with the Tasman Nelson National Oiled Wildlife Response Team member, Ros Squire, and the rest of the Tasman Nelson team. Overall, the feedback from the exercise from all participants was positive and provided Wildbase staff with an excellent learning and networking experience.