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Boulder Bank, Nelson, 2015

Wildbase Oil Response Research Officer Graeme Finlayson attended a oil spill field exercise in Nelson. The exercise was a valuable experience for Wildbase and local wildlife representative Rosalind Squire as there is the potential for hundreds of birds to be oiled should a scenario such as this occur.

The location

The nationally-significant Boulder Bank is host to an abundance of nesting red-billed gulls (nationally vulnerable) and other species such as white-fronted terns, pied shags (both nationally vulnerable) and variable oystercatchers (at risk).

The scenario

Following a failed booming containment operation, intermediate fuel oil (IFO) was released into the Nelson harbour where it came ashore on the nationally significant Boulder Bank. There was the potential for hundreds of birds to be oiled should a scenario such as this occur.

The process

This required a real time shoreline cleanup assessment team (SCAT) and wildlife assessment, plus the development of an Incident Action Plan (IAP). All briefings were held in the field and the on-scene commander (OSC) had no prior knowledge, thus adding a degree of anxiety into the early response phase.

Personnel were allocated a role in either the SCAT team or the shore-based team that would focus on vessel and personnel decontamination. A final aspect of the exercise was intelligence gathering to support the development of an IAP.


With a significant number of birds at risk, the response that was planned would have likely required national response team (NRT) support for the wildlife component. 

Nelson Wildbase exercise

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