A penguin who was found in the Bay of Plenty covered in oil - it has since been cleaned up
NZ oil spill

Oil spill spreads in New Zealand

People have been advised to stay away from the water after the oil spill spreads to a beach in New Zealand. Oil-covered wildlife have been rescued in the area.

OIL FROM THE vessel that ran aground in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty has spread to a beach near Tay St, in Tauranga.

Maritime New Zealand says that the oil from the Rena is in individual fist-sized clumps about 5mm high and stranded on the tide line about every 700 to 800mm apart.

The news comes five days after the Rena ran aground on a patch of reef, spilling up to 30 tonnes of oil.

Following the discovery that the oil has spread, a public health warning has now been issued and people are being warned not to touch or attempt to clean up the oil as it is toxic.

People are also being warned not to eat any shellfish or fin fish that come from water with visible oil contamination.

The oil is so toxic that breathing in its vapour can cause irritation in the mouth, nose, throat and lungs, so people are being warned to stay away from the water and to wash if they come into contact with the oil.

Pumping from the Rena to the bunker barge Awanuia began around 8.30pm last night and approximately 10 tonnes of oil was successfully transferred to tanks on board the Awanuia before the weather turned and the work was suspended.

All vents on the ship are now sealed to prevent oil escaping.

The weather is supposed to deteriorate so the ships are lashed together tightly.

Once the oil has been removed from the Rena, the ship itself will be taken from the reef.

There are currently 14 teams working on assisting wildlife, and nine birds – including seven little blue penguins – have been recovered from Rabbit Island.

The New Zealand defence forces are currently patrolling the exclusionzone and and the wharf in Tauranga.

Two inquiries have been launched by New Zealand prime minister John Key into how the spill occurred in calm waters.

The Guardian reports that the captain of the Rena stated consumption of alcohol could not be ruled out as a factor.

Read: Inquiries launched into New Zealand oil slick>