Native birds rescued after Kaiapoi fire creates oil spill

Joy Reid
Source: 1News

Oil coated native birds are being rescued from some Christchurch waterways after a large fire saw thousands of litres of oil spill into the storm water system.

While the cost of the Sunday morning blaze at Sutton Tools NZ, in jobs and money, is still to be determined, the environmental cost is becoming obvious.

Environment Canterbury is in full clean up mode, setting up large bunds in the Cam/ Ruataniwha river and again where it intersects the Kaiapoi river.

So far more than 2,000 litres of the toxic quenching oil, has been recovered.

The coastal readiness and response lead for Environment Canterbury Emma Parr says the oil has “smothered some of the plant life, the vegetation on the bed, on the banks and the mud margins on the river. Because this is a tidal area it's sticking to that vegetation, the tides coming back up and picking it up again and flushing it back out again.”

So far multiple scaups (native duck) and mallards have been rescued by ECan’s wildlife team.

Environment Canterbury’s wildlife coordinator Tori Muir says they’re being taken to a vet and “we're going to give them the best chance we can”.

Sutton Tools NZ is a large employer in the Kaiapoi town. It’s been part of the community for 60 years, manufacturing drill bits.

Emma Parr says the company stored oil for its manufacturing in storage tanks underground.

“The fire-fighting water has then gone into the top of these tanks filled up the tanks with water, therefore the oil has come out, flowed over the land and into the stormwater network”.

While the clean-up is under control, she says the area is not safe for swimming or fishing until the weekend.

She expects the clean up to take about a week.

Meanwhile investigations are still underway to determine how the fire started at the tool manufacturing plant.

Most employees were unable to work today due to the damaged factory.

E tū union organiser Adrian Mealing says E tū represents around half of the staff.

He says they’ve “received an email notification that for the foreseeable future they would continue to get paid their normal wages”.

He says this is a relief for his members and that Sutton Tools is a “good employer”.

Sutton Tools employed multiple generations of local families and many employees had been there for decades.

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordan says the council has offered its support to the Australian owners of the company as it makes decisions about the future.

“I want to see this business stay, it’s part of Kaiapoi's fabric, it's part of our district's fabric I want to see those 100 jobs protected and this business remain here in our district.”