Government response to oil slick under review

Oil slick on Kawana Beach, Sunshine Coast.
Oil slick on Kawana Beach, Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Photo: Doug Steley, Silver Image Photographics

By Staff Writer

The Queensland Government’s response to Australia’s worst oil spill disaster has been criticised as slow and disorganised.

Deputy Premier Paul Lucas revealed yesterday that up to 350 tonnes of oil spilled from the Hong Kong container ship, Pacific Adventurer, which was more than eight times the amount first reported.

As emergency workers continued clearing away the 60 kilometre oil slick on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority announced that the ship’s captain had surrendered his passport, allowing authorities to begin their investigations.

“These investigations will include why only 30 tonnes of oil was first reported to have been spilled by the ship, when the true figure is now believed to be around 250 tonnes,” Lucas said.

Last week, Premier Anna Bligh announced that the response by state government agencies, including Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would also be investigated.

Sunshine Coast Regional Council last week reported that there was confusion over initial clean-up efforts, when MSQ told council workers to use hand tools instead of heavy machinery. That decision was overruled by Sustainability Minister Andrew MacNamara and the EPA.

Over the weekend, the clean-up operation successfully cleared 50 per cent of the oil affected areas across the Sunshine Coast, Bribie Island and Moreton Island.

“Both the Sunshine Coast and Bribie Island are all but clear, in fact we’ve seen some workers move from there to Moreton Island,” Lucas said.

“More than 25 per cent of areas impacted by oil on Moreton Island are now clean. A 10 kilometre stretch was washed clean by nature and workers have now cleaned more than 4 kilometres by hand.”

The Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett today announced that the Rudd Government would contribute $2 million, provided through the Coastcare program, towards the long term clean-up effort by community groups and natural resource management bodies.

“There is significant effort being made right throughout this region to get the clean-up concluded and to ensure that we protect the environment as best we can from significant, long-term damage,” Garrett said.

The 31 containers of ammonium nitrate that were lost on heavy seas, caused by Cyclone Hamish, have not been located by aerial surveillance teams.

For more info call the emergency response hotline: 1800 216 723.

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