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Whakautu II - All of Government Marine Incident Exercise

May 2016 New Plymouth and Wellington

Wildbase joined the Whakautu II exercise in May this year, a three day desktop exercise led by Maritime NZ to test an all of government response in the case of a major maritime incident. The exercise was conducted concurrently in New Plymouth and the Beehive Bunker in Wellington between the 9th and 11th of May.


Whakautu II focused on an all of government testing of maritime incident operation, control and command across 24 NZ government departments, CRIs and Universities. The exercise was based around two merchant vessels which collide early on the 9th of May in the North Taranaki Bight.  One vessel remains under command and is sailed away to a port of refuge, while the other is disabled and drift toward the Taranaki coast. Along with oil spilled into the marine environment, containers and hazardous cargo also go overboard and either reaches the shore or are lost.  What differed in this exercise, relative to all other exercises Wildbase has participated in, is that joint agencies worked under a regional controller (Mike Hill, Rescue Coordination Centre NZ), with Oil response (lead Mick Courtnell, MPRS, MNZ) being just one of six other response arms.  The other response arms included Salvage, Legal, Human resources, Health and safety (H&S), and Public information management (PIMS).

While Wildbase were predominantly working in the oil response area with Louise Chilvers being in the Wildlife coordinator role within the National response team (NRT), Operations team and Phil Battley the Wildlife Planning and Advisor Officer within Planning team, there was a lot of interaction with the other response arms, particularly PIMs.  The exercise started on the Monday as a Tier 2 exercise and was quickly ramped up to a Tier 3, with Wildbase being called in midday on the Monday.  So Phil and Louise’s participation started early on the Tuesday morning with assessment of the situation, adding the wildlife component to the action plan and development of priorities for the wildlife affected by the current and predicted level of oil spilled. At this stage there was already oil on the shore and at sea with oil predicted to reach more areas across the next several days. Although the exercise was only three days long, the action plans developed on the last day was to cover out to 10 days, including for wildlife the rehabilitation and eventual release of wildlife. The exercise again worked extensively with WebEOC (on-line information control and sharing program) building on improving links and efficiency between not only the oil response arms of Operations, Planning and Logistics but also PIMS, H&S and other response arms who would work together in a spill event.

The exercise was a great opportunity to not only work together with New Zealand’s NRT, but to see how it is integrated into the fuller all of government maritime response .