A clean-up operation of an oil spill in Tauranga Harbour has begun with officials working to find out where it has started from.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council regulatory compliance manager Alex Miller said the team was first notified this morning of an oil sheen on the water near Cross Rd and Sulphur Point.

"A visual inspection of the shoreline by our Maritime and Regulatory Compliance staff, as well as representatives from Tauranga City Council, confirmed these reports," Miller said in response to Bay of Plenty Times queries.

"In addition to a light oil sheen on the water, an oily residue could be seen along the high tide mark of the new tidal steps ... and several locations around the Marine Precinct on the eastern side of Sulphur Point."

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Reports of oil residue stretch from Sulphur Point to near Memorial Park.

The team was yet to determine the source of the spill but was investigating, he said.

Oil can be seen floating on the water at Tauranga's waterfront, which has been cordoned off to the public as authorities work to clean it up. Photo/Kiri Gillespie
Oil can be seen floating on the water at Tauranga's waterfront, which has been cordoned off to the public as authorities work to clean it up. Photo/Kiri Gillespie

Miller said regional council staff put booms in the water around the tidal steps and marine precinct to try to stop the oil spreading further.

Tape and orange cones cordoned off access to the tidal steps on Tauranga's waterfront. A small boom could be seen floating near the tidal steps with a pool of oil nestled inside.

Miller said the area was blocked off while the clean-up was underway to minimise any risks to the public.

"We are not expecting large quantities of oil at this stage but we will continue to monitor the situation with the incoming tide, and respond accordingly."

Miller said if anyone noticed discharges of oil, or further deposits of oily residue, they were encouraged to contact the regional council's pollution prevention hotline on 0800 884 883.