Minister of Conservation releases 2013 fuel tank audit results - Ngati Rangi

Audit finds park fuel tanks ‘high risk’

Following the 2013 RAL diesel spill, then Minister of the Environment, Nick Smith, publicly announced a review of all fuel tanks situated on Public

Conservation Land.

Its purpose was to seek an, “assurance that flammable fuel storage on conservation estates was both compliant with legislative and regulatory requirements”, the results proved to be the absolute opposite.

Obtained by the Ruapehu Bulletin under the Official Information Act, the audit revels 71 percent of the fuel storage units failed to comply with safety compliance regulations and 33 percent were even classed as “high risk” to the natural environment.

Of the Department of Conservation [DOC] tanks, 75 percent failed to comply, three had “questionable” secondary containment bunding, two had “absolutely none at all”, and 41 percent were high risk.

Concessionaire’s adherence to safety legislation was also audited with 69 percent failing to comply and 28 percent were classed as a threat to the environment.

Over the last 16 months Partnerships manager Whakapapa, Jono Maxwell has been working alongside DOC staff and Tongariro National Park concessionaires to ensure all fuel tanks in the World Heritage Area are safe.

“We are going to look after our National Park,” he said.

“DOC have one at the [Whakapapa] campsite, that is due for removal any day, I understand it is not being used and is empty.

“We have [also] done our own on-site inspections of the [Iwikau Village] 53 lodges, out of that we found one club which as an underground disused diesel tank and that will be out within the two-year time frame.

“The other RAL tanks are accounted for.

Turoa Tanks

“Coming round to Turoa we are comfortable everything up there is to spec apart from the Massey University Club hut.

“It is empty and disused and they are putting a plan in place for removal and soil testing, which is imminent.”

On the Waiouru side of Mt Ruapehu, Tukino’s Alpine Sports Club, Mountain Clubs Association, Aorangi Ski Club and Desert Alpine Club all own tanks.

Following inspections Mr Maxwell said, “the one in the ground has kitty litter in it and is disused, they are looking at removal this year.

“They are looking at a whole new system for diesel storage ... I’m comfortable (that) within the next year Tukino will be 100% compliant.”

Also a direct result of the audit, nationally DOC have now removed 18, 15 are fully compliant and the department is still working on bringing 23 up to code.

Of the concessioners, work is being carried out on 52, 106 meet safety requirements, 16 have been removed from around the country.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s general manager, High Hazards and Specialist Services, Brett Murray said no official notification of the audit findings had been received. However, currently, there was no legal requirement to do so.

“WorkSafe does not consider an investigation is required but will monitor progress to ensure that the tanks are either made compliant or safely removed. “Depending on the capacity of the fuel storage tank, it is illegal to fill a tank if it does not have a test certificate [if required].

“WorkSafe has reminded DOC of its legal obligations and will provide advice and assistance to DOC where this may be required.”

Green Party conservation spokesperson, Eugenie Sage says the government needs to ensure the proper resourcing of agencies so they can operate to the highest safety standards.

“The high proportion of bulk fuel tanks which don’t comply with the law is unacceptable given the obvious and demonstrated risk to water quality, water supply, and ecological values.

“DOC needs to have vigorous oversight role of storage of fuels and other hazardous substances on conservation land.”

She added the commercial use of public conservation land, especially within national parks was a privilege.

“Companies such as RAL and its contractors need to operate with the highest standards of care.”