Media release

ORC staff to be tested by simulated oil spill in the Steamer Basin

Friday 8 February 2019

On 12 February 2019, Otago Regional Council staff will participate in an exercise testing their ability to effectively react to an oil spill in the Otago Harbour. The ORC undertakes two exercises a year as part of its contract with Maritime NZ in order to test the skills and reflexes of specialised staff to deal with oil spills in the region.

Martin King, ORC Manager of Environmental Services, is the Regional On Scene Commander for oil spill response in Otago.

“This exercise is about our ability to plan well, taking into account the changeable conditions at the time of the event,” he said.

“Things like weather, wind and waves can all alter the steps taken during an oil spill event.”

The scenario will challenge ORC staff to think quickly and outside the box – they won’t be told the details of the test scenario ahead of time. Elements of the exercise will include wildlife response, using recovery equipment to collect the oil, and working under pressure – as well as using their imagination, as the spill will be 100% simulated.

There are 20 staff members at ORC trained in oil spill response. The team is made up mainly of staff from the Compliance, Biosecurity and the Environmental Monitoring teams.

“Oil spills pose significant threats to our aquatic, commercial, recreational and cultural environments. Our waterways are unique and precious, so trialling staff response in the event of an emergency ensures we are always prepared for a major spill event,” Mr King said.

“It’s essential that this exercise tests our staff, equipment and our abilities to think on the spot, and provides the community with confidence that we can respond effectively.”

Maritime NZ National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell will also be present to oversee the exercise and check ORC’s ability to cope with a potential ecological crisis.

The exercise will take place in Steamer Basin, Dunedin.


Media are invited to attend from 9am.

If you spot an oil spill in Otago waterways – or any other form of pollution in our air, water or land – contact our 24/7 Pollution Hotline immediately at 0800 800 033, or fill out the form online at


ORC staff responding to a sunken vessel at Oamaru.

ORC staff responding to a sunken vessel at Oamaru.

A rapid deployment boom around a vessel at Oamaru in 2017.

A rapid deployment boom around a vessel at Oamaru in 2017.


Communications contact

Emma Schranz
Senior Media Advisor
027 627 5894