More than 2600 people have so far volunteered to help with cleaning up Bay of Plenty beaches of oil and container contents, and are being organised and trained.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby and Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chairman John Cronin said people should stay away from the beaches and register to volunteer for the cleanup on www.boprc.govt.nz/oilspillvolunteers , by phone on 0800 645 774 or at their local surf club.
"We know it's frustrating for the many people who just want to help, but unless they have been invited directly and received the vital training the environment could be further damaged by incorrect handling of the cleanup," Mayor Crosby said.
"Too much sand can be removed, and unless people are properly equipped they will track the oil back into urban areas, which we are already having problems with."
Mr Cronin said people who went to the beach without registering risked having clothing and shoes ruined, as well as anything they touched.
"This stuff is toxic. If you get it on your clothes, and you will, it cannot be cleaned off. One person had some on their fingers, tried to use their mobile phone and melted the numbers off. This oil is very nasty."
There will be a cleanup today at Ōmanu starting at 10am for 50 trained volunteers, by invitation only. A cleanup starts this morning at Fergusson Park with 50 trained people involved. About 200 community volunteers and iwi are cleaning up at Maketū and training for volunteers is being conducted at Pāpāmoa Surf Club (with no cleanup afterwards).
The volunteer coordination team is working through rostering the volunteers to get the maximum benefit from them. They are contacting volunteers and rostering them on when required.
Tomorrow is the biggest day for volunteers - 700 have been invited to help at five sites. Another two or three training sessions will be held to get ahead of oil arriving on beaches at Waihī Beach, Pukehina and Ōhope. No oil has been found at these beaches yet.
Volunteers are reminded to take care of the dune plantings which are essential to the replenishment of the dunes, and if they are not invited to be involved, no-one should come down to the beach. The beaches from Mount Maunganui to Maketū Point are closed to the public until further notice.
ANZ is catering for volunteers and there have been several offers of other catering support.