Oiled wildlife response training day

December 2012 saw a good number of GOPI members take advantage of a very special opportunity. Greater Wellington invited us to take part in a joint GW/NOWRT (see below) exercise designed to test the systems and processes that would be put in place in the event of an oil spill into the Inlet.

The given scenario was that a diesel tanker had overturned and spilled diesel into the Inlet, with major effects on the local wildlife. GOPI volunteers were assigned the tasks of 'observing, communicating and recovering'. This involved observing the extent of the spill and noting which wildlife had been affected, keeping in regular radio touch with the Incident Command Centre and bringing affected birds ashore so they could be taken to a triage centre. (Photo right courtesy Marie Love. From left, Marie Love, Tony Shaw, Dick Fernyhough, Jen Deben and Wendy Edwards outside Stout Cottage.)

 

In a real event, it would be very important for every recovered bird to be recorded, and this is also a job that falls to volunteers. Using 'water-resistant pads and writing implements', volunteers need to note down all details of 'events, timings and outcomes' so that subsequent legal proceedings will be supported by accurate evidence.

 

As a regional council, Greater Wellington has a statutory responsibility to plan and be prepared for oil and other spills in our region. GW has equipment available at all times to deal with oil and chemical spills, and containing a spill is always their immediate priority. The expectation is that it would probably be two to three hours after notification of an event that attention would turn to the wildlife. At this point the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team (NOWRT), coordinated by Massey University under contract to Maritime New Zealand, would swing into action, assisted by local volunteers. (Photo left courtesy Marie Love.)

 

The NOWRT has a sense of humour, informing us that volunteers in a real event 'will be issued with protective clothing (white overall, visibility vests, gloves and goggles) and the team will have access to a wide range of equipment such as whistles, nets, cardboard bird boxes, horns, pillow slips (for the birds, not the volunteers).' They also tell us that kayaks and rubber or aluminium 'rubber duckies' with outboards would be used to rescue birds on the water. Volunteers are advised that injured birds can be feisty and need to be held 'at arm's length and below the waist' and that herons have a tendency to attack their rescuers' eyes. Our GOPI volunteers were very pleased to have some training in avoiding these pitfalls!

How we like the Inlet birds to look. (Photo courtesy Marie Love)

 

Last Updated: 14/12/2015 12:00am