2.21 buys one litre on grin-and-bear-it island

Last updated 23:13 12/05/2008
BARRY HARCOURT/Southland Times
UNDER THE PUMP: Jack Frew, of Stewart Island's Island Transport, wondering where the price hike will end up. His pump prices are at $2.21 a litre.

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Petrol  at $2 a litre - you don't know how lucky you are, say Stewart Islanders.

Unleaded 91 hit $2.21 a litre at their only pump yesterday.

Jack Frew, who owns Island Transport in Halfmoon Bay, said petrol cost more than on the mainland because of freight but the price had hit a high, with no sign of slowing. "It goes up every week. I've got to keep putting it up to cover my overheads."

With about 350 vehicles, the islanders had little option but to grin and bear the price. Diesel, served to Stewart Islanders from a tank on the back of a truck, was $1.78 yesterday. But if that truck left his yard to make a delivery the price increased, Mr Frew said.

For the rest of New Zealand, the Automobile Association is recommending that motorists boycott petrol stations that lead price rises as BP increases its fuel charges ahead of competitors.

BP raised prices by 5 cents yesterday, taking 91-octane to $1.94 a litre, 95 to $2, and diesel to $1.62. Shell did not match the increase yesterday. Mobil and Caltex did not return calls.

AA spokesman Mike Noon said motorists should shop around when some companies were charging more. "People should reward the companies that hold their prices [down] for longer," he said.

BP spokeswoman Diana Stretch cited international oil prices and a softening New Zealand dollar as drivers of the rise. The cost of refined oil had risen 9 per cent since the last rise in April, she said.

Crude oil remained at US$126 per barrel yesterday amid fears of rising violence in the Middle East and Nigeria. It hit a record high of US$126.27 late on Friday. In the past week the New Zealand dollar has dipped more than 2 cents against the US dollar, the trading currency for oil.

Shell spokeswoman Jackie Maitland said Shell held off raising prices yesterday but cost pressures were consistent and varied. "We're hoping the price will come back from US$126, but it is not all related to the barrel price."

The rise comes as the pressure mounts to open the books on why motorists are paying so much.

AA fuel market expert Mark Stockdale said AA was meeting Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel and the Economic Development Ministry to discuss transparency in fuel retailing.

He said ideally New Zealand needed to follow Australia's example in having more public information about what controlled petrol prices. "Our market is different to Australia. Over there the transparency has managed to improve competition." An Australian "Fuel Watch" regime, due to be launched in December, would require petrol companies to advertise prices daily for the following day so consumers could shop around.

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The national system follows a Western Australian consumer protection initiative that advertises petrol prices and encourages motorists to shop where fuel is cheapest. There are also consumer-oriented websites showing fuel prices across the brands.

Mr Stockdale said increased exposure of the prices had led oil companies to compete heavily, sometimes changing pump prices several times a day.

"All that happens here is that the petrol price goes up and stays up until it needs to go up again."

 

- The Dominion Post

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