28 Apr 2013

'Close call' but no wildlife harm from diesel spill

1:58 pm on 28 April 2013

The Department of Conservation says a diesel spill from a fishing trawler that hit rocks off Stewart Island has been a close call.

The 58-metre Sureste-700 leaked some of the 23,000 litres of fuel it was carrying after striking the rocks late on Friday night, but the Southland Regional Council says rough seas seem to have naturally dispersed the diesel.

No sign of it was found in the water on the ocean side of the area known as the Neck where the trawler grounded, or further offshore where the crew took the vessel to lessen the effect on wildlife.

The Neck is near the Ulva Island Te Wharawhara marine reserve, and Ulva Island bird sanctuary.

DoC's wildlife adviser for Stewart Island, Andy Roberts, says the news about the spill could not have been better.

"There's no obvious diesel on the surface, which means it's dispersed and broken up in the strong winds," he says, "and we're very confident that wildlife impacts will be negligible."

The trawler hit rocks and ruptured a fuel tank.

The trawler hit rocks and ruptured a fuel tank. Photo: ENVIRONMENT SOUTHLAND

The company that chartered the Sureste-700 says the vessel may have to wait more than a week before repairs can be carried out in dry dock.

South East Resources chief executive Jason Williamson says the vessel will head for Timaru, where a diver will inspect the damage to the tank and hull. After that, it's expected to go to Lyttelton for further investigation and repair. Investigations will also look into the amount of diesel the vessel lost.

Mr Williamson says he hopes it will get there by Tuesday or Wednesday, but it will have to wait until at least the following Tuesday before there's room in the dry dock for it.

South East Resources chartered the trawler for the squid season. Mr Williamson says the financial effect on the company of the boat being unable to fish will be considerable.

Maritime New Zealand says it will decide in the next few days whether to launch an investigation.