The diesel spill which contaminated Raetihi's water supply has triggered a nationwide review of fuel storage in our national parks.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith is requiring the Department of Conservation to review the standards and back-up containment of all fuel tanks in national parks after the September 27 spill, in which about 19,000 litres of diesel leaked into the Makotuku Stream on Mt Ruapehu.
"Our national parks are our most valued natural environments and I expect the highest standards for storing fuel in these areas," he said.
"The spill at Turoa skifield was unacceptable and we need to do everything possible to prevent a re-occurrence anywhere else on public conservation land.
"I have asked that DoC's review particularly focus on the 16 skifields operating on public conservation land. There are additional risks for storing fuel in alpine environments and the areas are also more ecologically fragile."
Dr Smith said that, while skiing and snowboarding were "wonderful recreational opportunities for people to enjoy in our alpine environments", they needed to be managed in a way that avoided such serious environmental incidents occurring in the future.
"The review will look at the standards for fuel storage and the inspection regimes to ensure they comply with requirements for bunds to contain any accidental spills.
"The review is separate to the investigation by the Horizons Regional Council into the Turoa incident and any decision on whether any party will face prosecution.
"The review may result in changes to concessions that involve storing fuel on public conservation land. DoC may also seek external expert advice on its own systems to better manage these risks," Dr Smith said.
He expected the review to be completed, and recommendations implemented, in time for next year's ski season.
Dr Smith said the spill had damaged the environment in the country's oldest national park as well as polluting the Makotuku, which is a habitat for the endangered whio or blue duck.
"We need to tighten up the standards for fuel storage on public conservation land to prevent this sort of environmental harm in our most fragile and valued areas of New Zealand," the minister said.
Last week the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said its health and safety group had been notified of the diesel spill by the Environmental Protection Authority.
An inspector from the group, which performs investigative and enforcement roles for the EPA under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, is currently making preliminary inquiries.
A spokesperson said other agencies were involved in the incident and the health and safety group would discuss the incident with them.