Unmanned stations drive down fuel prices

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 29/06/2013
Christine Whitmarch
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ

DAVID V GOLIATH: Fuelling Kapiti has forced the big companies to match its cheaper prices. Christine Whitmarch fills up happily all the time.

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Kapiti has become the hot spot for cheap petrol, thanks to a small independent operator driving down the big boys' prices.

Fuelling Kapiti, an independently owned self-service station at Paraparaumu Beach, is selling 91-octane petrol at 202.9 cents a litre.

BP, Z and Mobil are roughly matching that price on the Kapiti Coast - while in Wellington and the Hutt Valley they are selling the same fuel for up to 14c a litre more.

Owners Jane and Larry Ellison have operated the site on the corner of Maclean St and Seaview Rd for about 10 years and have traded as Fuelling Kapiti for two years.

Because it is an unmanned, self-service station, they could sell fuel more cheaply, Ellison said.

"We have no overheads, so we can keep prices down."

BP communications manager Jonty Mills described Kapiti as "a particularly hot spot" for competitive fuel prices.

"There is competition with other main players: Mobil and Z along the main drag, two supermarkets and an independent distributor. We have to decide how and when we can compete as hard as we can."

It's a disparity that has been noticed by residents. Annette Reeve, who lives in Paraparaumu Beach and works in Wellington, always pops into Fuelling Kapiti, as do her work colleagues living on the coast.

"Word has got around," she said.

"It is self-service, so there is nothing loaded on. It is always my first option. Sometimes I begrudgingly fill up in Wellington, but it is notoriously cheaper here."

Another beach resident, Christine Whitmarch, said: "We find it is the best deal in town. If we go to Wellington, Pukerua Bay or anywhere else, we make sure we have enough petrol from here."

For some time the Gull station in Masterton sold the cheapest fuel in the Wellington region, but yesterday it was selling 91 for $2.10, following a national, 24-hour 10c discount.

In Horowhenua, the unmanned Gull station in Levin continues to lead the way, selling 91 for 198.9c.

Gull New Zealand national general manager Dave Bodger said that since the station opened fuel prices had dropped throughout the town as other companies followed suit.

"Supermarket dockets, unmanned sites, it is all about getting value," Bodger said.

He urged motorists to fill up their tanks before Monday, when the Government puts excise tax up by 3c a litre.

AA Petrolwatch spokesman Mark Stockdale said independent and unmanned service stations were able to charge lower fuel prices because they had no staff or shop, and less land.

"They are able to cut their margin and pass on lower costs to motorists. Competitors are forced to match that price, even if they employ staff and have a larger service station and higher capital costs. That is really good for consumers. It is positive we have a competitive fuel market forcing national operators to compete on price."

There were no unmanned service stations in Wellington, which was why fuel prices were around the national average in the city.

NOW'S THE TIME TO FILL THE TANK

Petrol prices are set to jump by 3 cents a litre on Monday, as the Government introduces the first of three excise rises over three years.

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AA Petrolwatch spokesman Mark Stockdale said it was extremely likely the fuel companies would be passing on the increases to motorists.

"There is certainly no fat in their margin at the moment to absorb a 3c increase.

"If motorists were thinking of filling up in the next week or so, they might want to do it this weekend to avoid the 3c increase."

Diesel prices will be unaffected, but road user charges will rise.

Mr Stockdale noted excise on petrol rose by about 3c a litre in 2012, and annual increases were expected by motorists. "Three cents is probably the maximum motorists would be comfortable with."

The levy is to pay for the Roads of National Significance projects, including the Basin Reserve flyover, Transmission Gully and the duplication of the Mt Victoria Tunnel.

Road user charges will also change from Monday, increasing by up to 10 per cent.

PUMP IT UP

Price per litre of 91-octane yesterday:

Fuelling Kapiti: 202.9c

Connect BP, Paraparaumu: 202.9c

Z Kapiti Rd: 202.9c

Mobil Kapiti: 202.9c

Waikanae New World: 202.9c

Caltex North Highway, Paraparaumu: 206.9c

Mobil Lower Hutt: $2.14

BP Express Upper Hutt: $2.15

Caltex Basin Reserve: $2.15

Z Taranaki St: $2.15

National average: $2.15

- © Fairfax NZ News

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