Lessons for Oz in oil spill

THE co-founder of Australian Seabird Rescue, Marny Bonner, says Australia would be unprepared to deal with an oil spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico.

At a public debriefing session at the Ballina headquarters yesterday, she talked about her first-hand experience at the disaster zone.

She said Australia should learn from the mistakes being made in the clean-up effort.

“Something like that could happen here today,” Ms Bonner said.

“We have got to have a game plan.

“At the moment we are not prepared. We are totally unprepared.”

But she said she had learnt a lot during her trip to the site of the BP oil spill last month.

Ms Bonner and founder of the South Coast branch, Julie Clarke, could not get permission from the authorities to help rescue oiled birds and turtles.

Instead, they focused their efforts on helping local residents.

“The town we were in was a town like Ballina in the middle of summer,” she said.

“Normally it’s full of people, recreational fishers, birds, but it has turned into a military zone.

“There’s nothing. People are keeping their children locked up.

“The people on the Gulf coast are suffering like now people in America should. Everybody’s heart is aching.

“And there is no end in sight. There’s no sense of getting the situation under control.

“It’s getting worse by the day.

“Going to the Gulf of Mexico has given me a stronger determination to make sure that if an oil spill happened in Australian waters we would be prepared.”

Ms Bonner wants to make sure there is a team of trained wildlife rescuers all around Australia’s coastline, people who can save seabirds and turtles during a time of crisis.

She wants to work with government agencies, international organisations and experts in Australia to develop training programs in the handling of oiled birds.

“We have to try and get a game plan that works,” she said.

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