Mick Courtnell appointed MPRS Exercise Leader

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 45, December 2013

A new team member at MNZ’s Marine Pollution Response Service (MPRS) is already a familiar face to many in the oil spill response community.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
Mick Courtnell at a re-opened Tauranga beach during the Rena grounding.

National On Scene Commander (NOSC) Mick Courtnell has joined MNZ after 10 years in the Auckland Council Harbourmaster’s Office, during which time he worked closely with the team at MPRS and others in New Zealand’s response system.

Mick started as Exercise Leader at MPRS in July. The role is newly created and aims to provide leadership, assistance and assessments to MNZ’s partners in oil spill response &ndash: the 16 regional councils and offshore operators. In this new role, Mick is also required to lead and coordinate the exercise programme for the National Response Team.

Mick says the addition of an Exercise Leader to the MPRS team will improve the overall effectiveness of the oil spill response training programme.

“Exercising plays a critical role in maintaining New Zealand’s response capability, through the confirmation of skills, introduction of new techniques and teamwork,” Mick says.

“Given that I have worked at a regional council myself for the past 10 years, I have a comprehensive understanding of how councils operate and what their needs are in relation to oil spill preparedness.

“I’ve also worked very closely with MPRS and the wider MNZ team over those years, so even though I’m a new recruit, I’ve got a head start if you like – I have a really strong foundation to launch this new work programme from.”

Mick’s work in the Auckland Council Harbourmaster’s Office involved close ties with MPRS over the past 10 years.

During the period 2003–13, Mick was involved with more than 200 marine oil spills and maritime incidents within the Auckland region, most of them in the role of Regional On Scene Commander.

Along with several other members of MPRS, Mick was deployed to assist with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, as well as the Pasha Bulker response in New South Wales in 2007. Mick was appointed as a NOSC for oil spill response in 2010.

In the initial days of the Rena response, Mick managed the on-water operations based in the port, before joining the NOSC roster and continuing in that shared role until the conclusion of the Tier 3 response in May 2012.

Mick says the extended nature of the response meant it was important for the team to celebrate milestones along the way.

“Getting the beaches reopened and then releasing the penguins back into the wild were both milestones that I played a key role in, and they helped focus the team as they demonstrated the progress we were making.

“We showed at the beginning how quickly the team could escalate – we learnt how to de-escalate as the response went on.”

Originally from the United Kingdom, Mick completed an 18-year career in the British Army before emigrating to New Zealand. He owned and operated a 24 metre vessel running dive charters around New Zealand, the Kermadec Islands and Tonga. Highlights included evacuating the Department of Conservation rangers off Raoul Island during an earthquake, and involvement with a wildlife documentary on sharks.

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