Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Tar-balls after 20 years - will Mount be the same?

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Sam Judd is Co-founder and Events director for Sustainable Coastlines - a registered New Zealand charity that motivates people to look after their coastlines.

Locals are out cleaning up the oil despite warnings from Maritime New Zealand. 
Photo / Cassandra Mason
Locals are out cleaning up the oil despite warnings from Maritime New Zealand. Photo / Cassandra Mason

As oil pours from the stricken Rena onto our coastline, volunteers wanting to save their summer have inundated us with offers of help.

Hopes of a quick recovery are, however, bleak. Nearly 18 months after the huge Gulf of Mexico spill last year, tar-balls washed up again in a storm. Twenty years after the Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska, they still find oil: we face our biggest beach clean-up ever.

So how can you help?

Vounteers detest inaction. Understandably, Maritime New Zealand wishes to address the situation with a coordinated approach, but perceived inaction makes people angry.

Four days of calm weather with no salvage attempts, lack of a proper response boat and no public information on how to safely help in the clean up have all fuelled the resentment.

Kiwis love the coastline - over 13,500 volunteers have joined us there to remove plastic (which comes from oil) - and despite authorities (and us) asking them not to, people are out cleaning up already.

Trying to stop the "Bay" locals from taking such action is about as effective as a Tango dancer tackling an angry Argentinian forward pack.

But every team needs training: authorities have finally started explaining how to assess risks, what equipment is required and where to deposit contaminants, safely.

At the end of this blog is information on how you can volunteer.

An oil-soaked summer?

Locals are watching in horror as their crucial summer revenue and way of life is consumed by stinking sludge.

Bay of Plenty beaches smeared with dead birds are about as attractive to tourists as an oily face covered in pimples.

History shows that tourists will avoid the entire region like the plague. After the Gulf spill, tourism operators hundreds of miles away from the contaminated beaches were left suffering.

At least in the US, BP set aside $20 billion to reimburse private enterprises. But New Zealand law caps liability for ship operators- which will only add to the fury of the empty motel owners as they scrape sticky, rotting animal carcases from their beloved beach.

Anyone wishing to volunteer in the clean-up effort should register online here or call 0800 645 774. For other offers of help please email iccrena@gmail.com with 'Volunteers - 1 for all' in the subject line, full name, contact number and relevant experience.

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