Planes, choppers in Bream Bay oil spill exercise

18 Jun 2015, 12:54 PM

People noticing low-flying fixed wing planes and choppers over Bream Bay on Monday are being advised not to worry – it’s all part of a scheduled exercise involving a fictional oil spill.

A previous oil spill exercise held at Bream Bay in 2013.

Maritime New Zealand's Marine Pollution Response Service is planning to test a number of its oil spill response arrangements during the 22 June exercise based around the Marsden Point oil refinery.

The exercise will simulate the observation and dispersal of an oil slick offshore from Bream Bay and will involve a number of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters operating in the area, including at low level.

The exercise is being conducted jointly with the New Zealand Refining Company and will be based primarily at the refinery's helipad.

No chemicals will be used during the exercise, but aircraft will be spraying water to simulate the use of dispersants. (In a real spill, these would only be used under strictly controlled circumstances.)

Maritime NZ advises the exercise has already been widely notified to the Northland Regional Council and its Regional Harbourmaster Jim Lyle, the refining company, Northport, local iwi, NIWA and police.

In case of bad weather or other operational factor, Tuesday 23rd June has been identified as a back-up day for the exercise.

Mr Lyle says for safety reasons, the public is asked to keep well away from the operational area and the refinery will also be cordoning off its helipad area.