Last year the world’s attention was focused on a huge oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, and the environmental disaster that unfolded. Not long after that Brazilian oil giant Petrobras started explorations for drilling in our own Raukumara Basin.
Naturally concerns were raised about the prospect of a Gulf style disaster off our own shores. The Nats gave all sorts of facile reassurances that everything would be fine – a dangerously lax attitude to the very real risks. New Zealand is ill prepared to manage a big oil spill. Gerry Brownlee promising that the government would “do all it can” to prevent a spill simply doesn’t cut it.
And now of course, here we are. The spill from the Rena on a much smaller scale than the Gulf, but it is still a disaster in the making:
Joyce: Slick damage will get worse
The oil slick from a leaking ship off the Tauranga coast remained a constant size today, Maritime New Zealand said. But the environmental damage from the spill will get worse before it gets better, Transport Minister Steven Joyce said.
And the spill is taking its toll on wildlife, with four little blue penguins and two shags rescued from Motiti Island today. Four teams of responders are based on the island at present, and 10 more will join them tomorrow.
The Rena has been stranded off the Tauranga coast since grounding early on Wednesday. It has 1700 tonnes (2 million litres) of heavy fuel oil on board. …
We are dealing with a considerable clean-up operation and we can expect some oil to come ashore at some point,” Joyce said.
An estimated 100 tonnes of oil has leaked from one of the ship’s fuel tanks into its bilges and keel and forecast bad weather is expected to increase the rate of spill as the ship is damaged further.
Maritime New Zealand National On Scene Commander Rob Service said efforts to stop the leak and disburse the oil were difficult due to inappropriate equipment for the rough seas. “Offshore operations are subject to weather conditions and we are not being able to undertake on-water operations due to the conditions,” he said. … Trials of dispersants were continuing after inconclusive results yesterday, with experts advising against the use of protective booms due to strong currents and rough seas, Maritime NZ said. …
Marine experts are warning it’s highly like the ship would break up and say the fuel needs to be taken off.
The call came as Environment Minister Nick Smith said the spill from the ship “had the potential to be New Zealand’s most significant maritime pollution disaster in decades”.
So dispersants haven’t worked, and other operations aren’t possible because we have the wrong equipment for rough seas. Brilliant. It certainly makes a mockery of the Nats’ bland reassurances doesn’t it. If we can’t deal with a small oil leak from a grounded ship, what are we doing planning deepsea drilling on a grand scale?