Whangarei's ability to handle an oil spill will be put to the test this week in a training exercise on Whangarei Harbour.

Northland Regional Council is planning to test a number of its oil spill response arrangements during the exercise on Wednesday based around the main Port Nikau wharf off Port Rd.

People noticing activity including a council boat and oil spill clean-up equipment off Whangarei's Port Nikau are being advised not to worry - it's all part of the scheduled exercise.

Once Whangarei's main port, the location is now a developing maritime infrastructure area. The exercise will simulate a spill of about a tonne of bilge oil from a ship berthed there, which is affecting both the water and nearby shoreline.

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The council's regional harbourmaster, Jim Lyle, says, for safety reasons, the general public is asked to keep well away from the operational area during the exercise, which will begin in earnest about 9.30am and should be all over by early afternoon.