Our own oil spill

Written By: - Date published: 8:07 am, October 8th, 2011 - 15 comments
Categories: disaster, Environment, Gerry Brownlee, Steven Joyce - Tags: , ,

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?

15 comments on “Our own oil spill”

  1. happynz 1

    If I remember correctly Gerry Brownlee once proposed that a ‘Best Practices Manual’ was all that was needed and ‘she’d be right’.

    • erentz 1.1

      I’m hoping some msm attention is given to the drilling off the East Cape after this. I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath.

  2. Mac1 2

    “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?”

    Absolutely. Thanks for pointing out the connection. At the moment it’s ‘spray and walk away.’

  3. John Dalley 3

    Another nail in National’s political coffin?

  4. ianmac 4

    “So dispersants haven’t worked……”
    It seems that the hydraulic oil has a component that causes it to float beneath the surface so the dispersant takes a while to react by seeping down from the surface.
    The measure of the response is of course a measure of preparedness. Government responsibility? Yes.

  5. Afewknowthetruth 5

    The normal response of governments to major oil spills is to put in place an exclusion zone so no one can see what is actually happening, declare the situation under control, release a statement from the oil company indicating the quantity is one tenth the actual amount, and then hope that Nature can cope with the mess.

  6. Hilary 6

    Where is the leadership from the local MPs?

    • HardlyAnonymous 6.1

      Don’t expect to hear anything from the local Tauranga MP, Simon Bridges AKA Muppet. He was quick to slam Tiki Tane for his singing, but dissing Corporate Monkeys is a whole different ball game. And its an election year, so can’t make a big fuss about anything related to Oil or Coal when your only economic policy is rape and pillage without a hint of caring about the environment beyond Smile and Wave non sequitur.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    Maritime New Zealand National On Scene Commander Rob Service said…”Offshore operations are subject to weather conditions and we are not being able to undertake on-water operations due to the conditions,”

    The days since the grounding have been calm and they ain’t going to get any better. This is no more than an excuse. The lack of equipment is due to bad planning probably caused by cutting corners in an effort to “improve” efficiency and make more profits for the port*.

    * Due to the neo-liberal revolution here, specifically the removal of regulations, for the last 3 decades I doubt any port in NZ could deal with the situation and yet it is obviously one for which they should have plans, equipment and training for.

  8. uke 8

    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?

    Ditto fracking.

  9. Cin77 9

    If worst comes to worst and we have a situation like the gulf oil spill we can bend down and kiss our coastlines goodbye 🙁 I’ve had reservations about the deepsea oil drillilng from when I first found out about it, but now I have these very loud alarm bells ringing in my head.

  10. Jumbuck 10

    It’s like watching a really slow trainwreck.

  11. If we changed the name of the ship to “Party Central” would we get a better response?

  12. hellonearthis 12

    Has John Key blamed Labor for this yet?

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