sign uplog in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Ardern calls out National over Auckland fuel crisis, attacks govt for setting up working group to look at fuel security over action; Deputy PM Bennett notes pipeline not owned by govt; Damage done over "months or years"; 2012 report contained warnings

Ardern calls out National over Auckland fuel crisis, attacks govt for setting up working group to look at fuel security over action; Deputy PM Bennett notes pipeline not owned by govt; Damage done over "months or years"; 2012 report contained warnings

By Alex Tarrant

Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern has called out National government Ministers over briefings in 2011 and 2012 warning of the disruption likely to be caused if the oil pipeline linking Marsden Point and Auckland were put out of action.

National Party deputy Paula Bennett said warnings had also been given in 2005, and stressed that the pipeline was privately owned. Energy Minister Judith Collins reiterated that the government does not own the pipeline and claimed that enforcing "100% resilience" would have led to extra costs for fuel consumers.

Prime Minister Bill English over the weekend said government would do whatever it could to help mitigate the crisis, which has seen dozens of flights out of Auckland grounded and delayed, after fuel supplies started to run low. Collins said the government had been told on Thursday that the pipeline had experienced a drop in pressure, but that no disruption was expected. That had all changed by Saturday evening, she said. Auckland Airport is now facing 10 days of disruption.

Also see reaction from the Greens, New Zealand First and Infrastructure NZ further below.

Update: Defence Forces get involved; Energy Minister Judith Collins issued the following release at 3:15pm:

Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins says the Defence Force and government agencies are stepping up to help minimise disruption resulting from the Marsden Point pipeline being out of action.

Ms Collins says top officials from government agencies have held further discussions today with Refining NZ, which owns the pipeline, the Supply Group, representing fuel companies, airlines and others.

“The latest information I have is that aviation fuel supplies in Auckland remain of most concern, but that fuel supplies are sufficient for Auckland motorists.

“Airlines have already reduced schedules and are looking at what further changes they will need to make over the next week. But for now most flights are going ahead.

“It’s been made very clear to all of those working on this that the Government will commit whatever resources and effort are required to get this sorted out as quickly as possible with a minimum of disruption.

“I’m extremely heartened by the way everyone involved is working together and focused on what’s required. In particular, to those people who’ve had their travel plans disrupted or who face disruption in the days ahead, we understand they are frustrated. I want them to know we’re doing everything possible to get this fixed, but they should understand that it’s going to take a little time. At this stage, we’re a week or so away from the pipeline being restored.

“The nature of the damage means repair isn’t quick and the work has to be done very carefully. But if any additional personnel or expertise from the Defence Force can speed the work up in any way then they’ll be made available.

“To free up industry resources to focus upon Auckland Airport, the Defence Force will be using the naval tanker HMNZS Endeavour to move diesel fuel from Marsden Point to other parts of the country.

“The Defence Force will also be providing up to 20 additional tanker drivers to assist local operators in managing their increased workload, cancelling a major exercise with Singapore to preserve fuel, deferring non-essential training and it’s also investigating options around refueling smaller commuter aircraft at Whenuapai Airforce Base.”

Ms Collins says further work is also being done to get more tankers on the road to carry additional fuel to Auckland.

“We’re looking at what we can do to make that easier in a regulatory sense, whether that’s around hours of work drivers or weight restrictions for tankers. Safety is always paramount, but where we can have some further flexibility then that’s what we will do.”

“I am continuing to work with other Ministers and officials and industry and I’m also briefing the Prime Minister.”

Ms Collins says fortunately any environmental impacts from the pipeline leak appear to be very limited, with the 70-80,000 litres that escaped into a farmer’s culvert now largely recovered and plans underway to treat the soil.

'They were warned, and set up a working group'

Much attention Monday morning was to a 2011 and 2012 series of reports to MBIE, warning about the level of disruption if such an instance occurred. Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said government had serious questions to answer over the episode, zeroing in on National's Simon Bridges, who was Energy & Resources Minister at the time.

Ironically for Labour, given last week's news flow over tax, Ardern ended up attacking Bridges for having set up a working group to look into fuel security issues at the time instead of acting.

“The Government has known for years that there were risks to the security of supply of fuel into Auckland, and particularly jet fuel to Auckland Airport. And they have only got worse as the city grows and air traffic expands," Ardern said.

“One option raised by Air New Zealand in 2012 was for additional jet fuel storage to be built at the Wiri terminal. It urged the Government to help establish a new fuel storage facility in west Auckland with Wiri turned into a dedicated jet fuel storage facility. In a submission to an official review Air New Zealand said storage capacity for jet fuel at Wiri and the airport was ‘modest’.

“In a Cabinet paper from 2012 Ministry officials advised the Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges that ‘such a terminal would improve the resilience of Auckland’s fuel supply chain, but would involve large capital investment – our consultants estimated an upfront cost of $57m.’

“Cabinet instead agreed to a mishmash of minor initiatives – among them; an oil contingency handbook, a working group of industry and officials to look at fuel security issues, allowing higher weight trucks to travel on roads, and a review of information on oil stocks. None of this cost the Government anything," she said.

'Backups would have meant costs for consumers'

Judith Collins on Radio NZ noted that there had been various studies done over the years on backups. “And the issue has always been, obviously the fact that we’ve never, in 32 years, had any problem with the pipeline at all, and the fact that the cost of having 100% resilience would all end up being passed on to consumers.”

There was an opportunity now to look at extra storage facilities in Auckland, she said. “The government doesn’t own the pipeline, or any of the fuel storage facilities. Those are all owned by the companies,” she said.

But government had offered any help that the companies ask for. Work included putting the military on stand-by to utilise fuel trucks they have to help bring in fuel supply.

Collins said the Marsden refinery had told her damage to the pipeline may have happened “over months or years” by someone digging around the fuel pipe in a particular space, damaging the insulation around the pipeline. This led to corrosion to occur and the pipe to then break.

Put to her that it seemed extraordinary a private land owner would be able to dig near such crucial infrastructure, Collins wheeled out the old line, “Well you might well question that.” There was significant signage around these sites, she said, adding the incident was “pretty amazing” for having occurred. Collins said she’d asked whether the land owner was digging for swamp kauri, which the company would not speculate on.

'We weren't aware of the report'

National deputy leader Paula Bennett - also Tourism Minister - also fronted on Radio NZ. She acknowledged the situation was “not great for the airline industry,” and tourism.

Bennett said she did not think the episode would damage New Zealand’s reputation as a tourist destination. “I think that people will see this as a very rare occurrence. It hasn’t happened for 30 years, we don’t expect it to happen again, and will be able to make travel plans accordingly.”

She was asked about government accountability, given this represented a significant infrastructure failure. “It’s not owned by the government,” Bennett replied. “It’s owned by the fuel companies. It is their job to be getting their product to its source and where it’s needed. So, as a consequence of that, it is their job to get it from the refinery into the airport.”

Asked whether it was the government’s job to ensure regulations making sure there were contingency plans, she said: “I’m sure that we will now look at that, make sure that we’ve got it all lined up properly. There’s other alternatives to a second line. There might be things like extra storage needed in Auckland…that gets you beyond the eight days.”

Bennett said she and Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins were not aware of the MBIE reports detailing the risks - although did say she was aware of warnings given in 2005 when Labour was in power. “We’ll obviously be looking at it."

“It’s private business…that own that line, and you would expect them to have better contingency plans. So, we’ll go and look at that, and make sure that we’re getting it right," Bennett said.

“I just don’t think everything’s kinda the government’s fault...trying to blame us for a pipeline that’s gone down in really unexpected circumstances, that we don’t own and that is privately thing. So look we can look at it, we’ll look at the report, we’ll be willing to make changes as they need to, we’ll throw everything that we’ve got at it at the moment to make sure that it’s up and running," she said.

'Environmental risk'

The Green Party paid attention to the environmental risk called by the leakage:

Northland Regional Council and Refining NZ need to release scientific evidence to support claims there has been no environmental damage from the rupture of the pipeline taking aviation fuel to Auckland airport, the Green Party said today

The Regional Council and the company need to be open with the public about how and why the rupture occurred, and the damage the fuel spill has done to the peat wetland, wildlife habitat and water quality at Ruakaka and beyond the site.

“Even if contaminated soil has been removed, further excavation of the wetland could be needed. This could have implications for the water table in the wetland, water quality and native wildlife.

“Kuaka/godwits are about to return from their migration to Siberia. We need to avoid any pollution of the estuarine habitats they use to feed.

“The fact a pipeline with such significance to our transport can be ruptured and create contamination so close to a wildlife refuge shows why we need proper enforcement of the Resource Management Act to ensure our environment is protected.

“Northland Regional Council needs to ensure Refining NZ not only cleans up the site, but that strong measures are taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again and wetlands are protected. Our environment and remaining wetlands deserve better,” said Ms Sage.

'Proves we need rail to Marsden Point'

Winston Peters said the debacle proved rail to Marsden Point from Auckland was required:

The public needs to know how the fuel pipeline from Marsden Point has been cut, says New Zealand First Leader and Northland Member of Parliament, Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“How come signs were not put up? All we are getting from the government on this at the moment is fluff.

“This debacle is further proof a rail link has to be established to Marsden Point. We can’t rely on a pipeline and we cannot use roads because of the enormous dangers.

“International tourism and exports are now being placed at serious risk.

“The digger driver was reportedly hunting for swamp kauri at Ruakaka and the damage was done three months ago.

“Why was this digger working where it was and why was the damage not successfully rectified?

“The government was warned years ago as to the serious risk of the pipeline being cut and has done nothing to offset this risk.

“Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett tried to pass the buck by saying the pipeline was not owned by the Government but by the fuel companies and it was their responsibility to look after it.

“That might be so but it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the fuel companies are doing their job,” says Mr Peters.

'Second pipeline not the right answer'

Infrastructure New Zealand said extra storage and better roads, not an extra pipeline, was the answer:

“The rupturing of the Marsden to Wiri oil pipeline has identified issues in resilience planning which should be resolvable without building another pipeline,” says Stephen Selwood, Chief Executive of Infrastructure New Zealand.

“Increasing fuel storage so that the country has some redundancy in the event of pipeline damage is one option. For this to occur, asset owners need to be able to consent storage and protect assets from reverse sensitivity objections.

“Resilience investment needs to be more strongly recognised in our planning and consenting frameworks so that regulatory barriers do not discourage industry from providing the backup New Zealand needs.

“In addition, we need to ensure fuels can be transported around the country in the event of an emergency. In particular, the corridor linking Whangarei to Auckland needs to be robust and we need to have enough vehicles and drivers to respond to urgent need.

“There may also be opportunities to strengthen existing assets to make them less vulnerable to disruption. Recent reporting suggests signage may have been poor near where the damage to the pipeline occurred. Keeping infrastructure corridors well-maintained is a priority and should be monitored.

“Technology is a vital part of the solution. 3D mapping tools and Building Information Modelling (BIM) can be used to maintain a detailed understanding of where assets are located. Better systems for obtaining, holding and accessing this information are required.

“Major supply problems suggest contingency planning has been inadequate. This is a significant rupture, but not one which should sit outside the bounds of good resilience planning.

“It is unclear exactly who is or should be accountable for ensuring the security of supply in the event of a disruption.

“Major parties have voiced support for the creation of an Infrastructure Commission. Taking a strategic leadership position on activities like resilience monitoring, preparation and reporting would be a core activity of such an entity,” Selwood says.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.



The question for Bennett is if such a strategic asset should be entirely in private hands with no govt supervision. Or at least for the Govt to have a back up plan in case kimdotcom buys the freaking pipeline and shuts it down for fun.
No comment on the dude trying to make a quick buck digging up Kauri to sell off to China and creating the mess.

Mate, even the airports are mostly privately owned.

It does make you wonder what the probability of something going wrong with the pipeline was at the time with a number of crisis to handle in NZ at 2012. Obviously not high as Labour didn't do anything when warned about it in 2005 as well. Everybody should watch this video of Ardern: Mother parties? Comrades? It's highly disturbing (for me anyways) that we have someone with this sort of hidden agenda wanting to become a PM here in our NZ.


hey look, a NatBot!


You are easily disturbed, but that comes with the territory when flogging Whale-oil "reds under the bed" crap. Its all a bit too Nats 70's retro for my taste.
I'm more disturbed about the current government's incompetence, asleep at the wheel once again, when it comes to strategic infrastructure.


Shhh! Don't look at the underfunded infrastructure, look over here at the surplus. The two are in no way related.


Its it just me or has Bennet really lost the plot?? She seems to care for zip ...or lay blame on others for everything under the sun..unbelievable for someone educated by the tax payer.
"Bennett said she and Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins were not aware of the MBIE reports detailing the risks - although did say she was aware of warnings given in 2005 when Labour was in power. “We’ll obviously be looking at it."

She's always been that way - great look at it by Graham Adams here;

Shows how soon a fuel disruption makes everything fall to bits. We are totally dependent on more Oil turning up. So when we hit the permanent new supply problems & that 5 day service station tank runs dry things will get interesting very quickly.


Amazing how this government works

Step 1. Do nothing
Step 2. Deny the issue exists
Step 3. Blame someone else

Playing from the same old play sheet over and over again

Well it has worked for the last three elections...

Meh, seems like this is an annoying but minor issue. Tanker trucking of jet-A1 fuel seems like an obvious and easy solution - it is very similar to diesel, and is done for all the other smaller town and regional airports around the country for small/private jets, helicopters and other turbine powered craft. Bringing a tanker ship down from Marsden to Auckland or Waikato and transporting fuel across town doesn't seem like it would be hard, and is a better long term solution than dumping money into an expensive unused backup.


your are totally wrong. An Airbus A380 loads 320000 Litres of fuel. That is 8 FUEL TANKER TRUCKS. There are 5 A380 in Auckland everyday that is 40 Trucks, just for 5 planes!! You might have noticed that the Airport has got only 1 road to get in, so either you get the Trucks or you get the passengers, thanks to Rail being for communists.

There are 165000 Aircraft movements per year in NZAA (akl airport) you might need to re-plan your bullshit shortcut

A fuel tanker truck operating 24hours per day could probabaly manage 12 return trips from Port of Auckland or 15-20 from a Manukau railway siding to airport.

Given reports that around 2000 people per day are affected which amounts to about 6 larger airliner flights. Typical long haul aircraft 777, A350, 787 (A380 is exceptionally big and inefficient) use about 150000L. Assuming that that is long-haul then that is perhaps 1million litres, or about 25 tankers full. So perhaps as little as two tanker trucks needed if they can work from a tanker ship at the port. Going to Marsden point would limit each tanker to about 4 return trips per day at ~5hours driving time. And would need more like six tanker trucks.

This does not sound like a particularly difficult problem to fix. Auckland uses 3million litres a day, that have to be delivered to service stations around the city. There is probably sufficient spare capacity existing in Auckland and North Island fuel train and truck utilisation/capacity to manage this problem with a bit of driver overtime.


My mate Bert with a wheelbarrow would be even cheaper bro.

but is his wheelbarrow fully certified.?


OK, so major piece of infrastructure fails due to it being owned by private companies. Largest city faces weeks of inconvenience. This was foreseeable to fix, but too expensive. Quite the free market success story.

The scary thing is that you don't realise it is a free market success. Throwing money at every scare or contingency would beggar us all and any business - and it is that mentality that has led us to the dire safety-at-all costs mentality practised by the (spending other peoples money) public sector.

That is the reason why we can no longer afford desperately needed infrastructure development - with Armies of box checkers now close to outnumbering and costing more than the actual work, even house building costs have moved beyond our ability to afford as we have been loaded down with endless requirements of the apparatchiks.

Cost to truck in fuel while the pipeline is repaired and a few thousand passengers are inconvenienced? A few million dollars? Cost of building and maintaining a separate fuel supply system for Auckland from Marsden point? 10's of millions? Investing that same money in a productive enterprise and using the profit to cover the exceedingly rare issues like this when they do come up is a far more economically rational approach.

How does the leaky homes crisis work into your theory? Isn't that free market failure and that's why we have councils having to check everything as builders will change their businesses name and the home owner is left with the mess.

Construction in NZ is not a "free market" but is highly regulated.

Besides, freedom is not an absolute. Some markets are more free than others.

Historically Caveat Emptor worked just fine. Building inspection before you purchase, don't buy if you don't like it, avoid weird architecturally designed stuff and insist on eaves and use properly treated wood framing. And if scared purchase insurance against any construction defects. Most leaky house repairs were less than $100k to fix (which most house owners could have afforded) but litigation to shift blame and bureaucracy involved increased costs by up to an order of magnitude. Lawyers got rich, everyone else got screwed - and building costs escalated massively as consequence of professionals getting burned and having to cover their arses for future. Trying to legislate away all risk with insanely over the top codes and inspection regimes has pushed up house building costs by at least $1-200k in the last few years without improving the houses one iota. Roll back the building regulations clock by 20 years and everybody would be far better off (armed with lessons of last 20 years).

Try $350 million! + Taniwha appeasement tax for an idle pipeline to counter rogue digger drivers. Even red radio this morning agreed it was a shite idea. The redder commenters demand a spare pipeline though - go figure. I reckon Jacinta should start a conversation about a spare pipeline and be really, really transparent about it.

If success is measured by the extent to which gains are privatised and losses are socialised, then you are definitely correct. Just like the finance companies were a success of the free market.

I thought it failed because some idiot dug it up?

CM - Do you want me to list all things that could conceivably go wrong in NZ that is private enterprises responsibility, and then leave it to you do work out the cost for the taxpayer to spend money to cover off everyone of them ? Your comments a joke and I assume youre also asking the same of the previous Labour Govt made the same call ? Truth is, without private enterprise we wouldn't have the infrastructure in the first place, and let me enlighten you, occassionally s**t happens and it's how you respond to it that counts, starting with the people responsible.

Most of the infrastructure (roads, rail, ports, dams, power stations etc) were built and paid for by the commie taxpayers of the past. Then bits were flogged off cheap to private enterprise.

I would be happy for you just to list situations where there is an identified single point of failure, which if it fails would make NZ look like a dinky little third world country, and inconvenience hundreds of thousands of people, plus a few large multinational corporations for good measure.

Also a failure is a failure regardless of which party occupies the government benches.

Strikes me as something of a good parallel to how cynically I have come to view whatever government of whatever party we are stuck with. Something like, the more tax that is poured into the pipeline, the more waste comes out the other end. Appreciate this particular pipe is not in government hands, but it may as well be.

It's certainly annoying but is it something the government needs to be involved in? I guess that is a philosophical question. However, the airport, oil companies, the refinery, passengers, and others want the pipeline (and fixed asap) so not really sure what the government adds to the mix.

Keep the government away from it. It is a public company. Just imagine the "i'm from head office, and my team and i are here to help"

That's rich of Ardern, Labour are the one who sold the energy pipelines to private businesses


Somehow I don't think she's of the same ilk as the privatisation proponents. Labour are not the same part they were decades ago.

You mean they had some real life experience in the past? The real world bench strength of this lot is woeful.
Jacinda Ardern – nil private sector experience. Worked in Parliament, UK Government and a US union. Did once demonstrate cookware at Farmers though.
Kelvin Davis – nil private sector experience. Worked as a teacher or for Ministry of Education.
Andrew Little – nil private sector experience. Worked in student politics then unions.
Grant Robertson – nil private sector experience. Worked in student politics then MFAT and Otago University
Phil Twyford – worked as a journalist for the Auckland Star and a promoter for Book Month so the first Labour MP to have some private sector experience. Otherwise worked for Oxfam, including as a lobbyist in DC for them.
Megan Woods – has been a copywriter for a private business, and did business development for a CRI.
Chris Hipkins – nil private sector experience – student politics, an Industry Training Organisation (Govt funded) and Parliament
Carmel Sepuloni – nil private sector experience – teaching, NGOs and university
David Clark – nil private sector experience – Treasury, church and Selwyn College

Moral of the story : Don't mess with a NZ Kauri.

lol, All knives are out ...including the Blunt Green knives .... everyone is looking for an excuse to blame the Gov ....and get to cut their pound of flesh !!
My goodness !! what a miserable and disgusting circus

A fresh new approach... not. This is the same sort of attack politics that we have had with numerous politicians of the past. This attack lost all possibility of support from me, due to the lack of logic involved. Let me know when the election is over so that we can return to rational discussion.

I'm hoping that an adult wins, but at this point I'm rather certain that this hope will be in vain regardless of which party wins. The old adage of "whoever wants the role is almost certain to be unsuitable for the role" applies here.

I'm hoping that an adult wins

There are no children running.


Okay, I should have phrased it as "I'm hoping that someone who acts like an adult wins"...

I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of people reading this would not take my original statement as meaning that I thought that actual children are running.

Yes, but the point being it was said in a derogatory manner I assume - derogatory in respect of children (i.e., an 'ageist' or age bias statement).

Nice overreach!

And yes, I am biased against people that use childlike logic without a strong usage of the clear facts at hand.

Nice overreach!

Yes, it was a bit irresistible given our other conversation :-).

Well Kate in your old country there is a saying, I think, that any one can grow up to be President, and if they don't grow up, then they can be Vice President.

Is there, I hadn't heard it before :-)! Left there before I'd ever voted.

Somebody thought it up, most likely about the time of Quayle one would suggest. Understandable.

I thought Adern didn't want the role?

Nothing wrong with not wanting it but subsequently taking up the mantle when it's thrust upon you because your desire is to change things for the better. Might produce better results than the guy who always wanted to be PM, became PM, enjoyed his time as PM but ultimately achieved ...umm....being PM, really.

I did not know Helen Clark was a guy.

Nah, those claims were just National Party electioneering.

So it looks like the Greens are the only party that walks the talk in regards to environment. There hasn't been a report from any other party that I have read that shows any concern for the potential environmental damage done as a result of this. If this was a farmer and an effluent pipe there would be howls of 'prosecute, prosecute, polluter must pay'. Because it isn't a dairy farmer the concern for the environment on this spill is deafeningly silent. Let's see if the 'polluter will be made to pay'. In Southland if a farmer self reports an incident on their farm they can still be prosecuted. I would expect an abatement notice was/will be issued in regard to the spill?

But the Greens don’t really walk the talk.
This is what an actual green party would be promoting

• A fast managed reduction in population (the core of all envt problems)
• A complete switch to local (in all senses – no travel, no tourism, local food, local society)
• A complete switch to organics & growing own food
• a shift away from the folly of urbanization
• a zero waste cycle (including sewerage) ie no water based sewerage system
• A system which was sustainable in its inputs - which ultimately means no fossil fuels
• The opposite of growth – we are in overshoot
In other words , an end to the economy and living standards as we know it. Any takers?

Which is presumably why they promote a growth/green story = a total oxymoron.
Its also why there is no such thing as Blue –Green

Blue green means
• more growth
• more population
• more immigration
• more roads (eg a four lane highway between Chch and Ashburton which I assume isn’t for horses?)
• more pollution
• more debt
• MORE …
But that we also love the environment. Fit for a Tui billboard only.

A fast managed reduction in population..

Let Awkland marinate for a month without Dino Juice, and that objective might just take care of itself.

Absent the 'managed' bit...

yes - i didnt say it would be popular

"But that we also love the environment. Fit for a Tui billboard only."
Your last two sentences are so reflective of some commentators on this site. Proclaim to be really caring about our environment and yet not one word of of environmental concerns on this spill from anyone.

yes very much agree. As i've said before its the economy OR the environment and we are extremely good at kidding ourselves and discounting the (future) effects of our current actions

Updated with statement from Collins that the defence force is getting involved.


Why the hell is it taking so long to fix this. In the weekend I heard on the radio that people were being flown in from North America and it would be another 8 day approximately before it would be repaired. I seem to remember we have had a couple of major leaks on the gas pipelines to New Plymouth, one involving a major gas fire. From memory these were repaired within a matter of hours to a couple of days and there was enough gas in the remaining sound pipeline to keep up supply.
Have we got to the point were we are so risk averse and incompetent that we are unable to take on this task ourselves. Or is it perhaps that industry has been so run down in NZ that we no longer have the skills?
What ever the case it is unforgivable that we have no contingency plans prepared and fully equipped personal who can swing into action and repair these pipes in a matter of hours. It is all the more important as there a a couple of major pipelines in NZ that have little or no back up.

Gas is slightly different.
1. There was a small secondary pipe. So not all flow was lost. But emergency rationing occurred across the bulk of Auckland.
2. Gas doesn't permeate the ground, it dissipates into the atmosphere. So less hazard at the actual break site once the leak is stopped.
3. Pipe depth and access play a factor.
4. Damage to the pipe is also a factor. More damage takes longer to repair.

The skills in NZ are pretty much there - we don't have emergency teams on standby, but we do have the core people able to fix the problem.

The big issue is that privatization of an asset such as this, means short term profit can take precedent over long term investment. An emergency repair every 10...5...2...1 years, is still cheaper than a whole lot of secondary infrastructure.

It seems to be a problem with all aspects of core infrastrucutre investment. The payback periods are often longer than the life of the asset.

How do you really spell - incompetent?


Gas is compressible and lines can store some days supply as they are under high pressure.

Liquids are incompressible so a break equates to immediate halt of flow.

True, but incidental. The real point is that they had the pipes up and running again very much quicker than this situation.

This is a debacle.
We really are such an amateurish country in many ways.

How hard is it to fix a broken pipe? It should be possible to fix it in a day or two surely? The sort of thing you would know exactly what to do and have plans in place for its inevitable occurrence.
The airport needs to have a tank farm with at least two weeks storage. There needs to be spare pipes and equipment ready to fix a leak within 24 hours.

Totally agree with you Zach. Hopefully this is a lesson well learnt for all the powers that be. "She'll be right" is not a good way to prepare for the worst.

Yes it's all Labour's fault!

Must be, because National's DPM said critical infrastructure wasn't the government's responsibility...

I hope they flush the pipes thoroughly. I don't want to be half way to the US when a piece of dirt clogs a jet engine part.

At least the pilots will likely be paying special attention to the fuel gauge before take off.

Pretty hard when you have to meet the array of environmental, health and safety (have to remove all traces of hydrocarbons before welding to prevent explosions, and even excavation might be considered excessively hazardous due to kerosene in ground.) and other regulatory issues surrounding the job.

The patching job itself is probably quite straight forward once you have skilled people, materials and equipment on sight to do it, they might even be able to continue using the pipe for a while and just collect and burn off the leaking fuel while they get everything they need to do a proper repair in place.

I am guessing they will likely get the repair done a lot quicker than initially estimated.

Have you lived anywhere else ? Sadly it is an amateurish world ..

Yes, Asia, Australia and North America.
Nowhere is perfect, but I find NZ particularly sloppy in many areas of business and governance.
There is a casual attitude to things here, which at times is downright negligent.

Wouldn't it be crazy if Oravida were involved in the digging of the kauri.

If it were, that most certainly won't be revealed prior to Saturday!

Can Judith Collins use a digger?

Digger or dagger?

The sad fact is that NZ, as a long, thin, and increasingly poor country, is just chocka with what John Robb ( terms 'systempunkts' - points where a directed attack or natural causes can generate an effect wildly out of proportion to the original investment.

  • Kaikoura earthquake severed the single rail line North-South in the Mainland,
  • Xtra's Interwebs in the NI went west a few years back via a rat on a fiber optic on one loop, and a digger (them diggers should, perhaps, be Watched?) on the other
  • I've always reckoned that a handful of clapped-out Datsun 180's, 'stalled' on a few strategic Awkland on or off-ramps or the Newmarket overbridge, would gridlock the sorry show for a day or more
  • And let's not forget the weeks without power to Central Awkland a coupla decades back. A corroded D-shackle on an overhead earth wire in a substation and Bzzzzt... (or was that another incident again?)

A leetle story about older infrastructure in a major Wellywood Gubmint building just before Y2K (remember that?):

The crew decided to test the resilience of the backup power systems in the building. Good call, because over three attempts, this is what they found each time they disconnected the external power via the Big Red Switch:

  1. The UPS behind the mainframe floor had never been deep-cycled. It failed after a few tens of seconds. New UPS ordered.
  2. Weeks later, feeling a bit smug, next disconnection. UPS works, genny fires up. Genny lasts about half an hour before one phase burns out completely. Turns out the building, as it was occupied, had all power wired to predominantly one of three possible phases. Mild panic sets in. Building wiring hastily re-jigged, New genny ordered
  3. Genny arrives. Whoops, won't fit in the basement space. Needs a hastily erected external shed. Panic turns from mild to extreme (mid-December 1999). But third time lucky, it all holds together when the Big Red Switch is thrown.

One building, in one city.

The top NZ tourism "hot spot" on my Dad's "must see" list the first time he visited here was the Cook Strait cable. Not only did he want to see the cable, but he had to see it at both ends. A long discussion about redundancy/vulnerability ensued :-).

Very interesting. I guess the issue is that designing systems without SPOF (single point of failure) is expensive, and it doesn't seem to be in our NZ psyche to spend more than necessary on things.

The Vodafone call centre outage a few years back is another example. Vodafone did the right thing and specified two connections to be run to the call centre to provide redundancy. These cables are designed to be laid on different sides of the road. The contractor decided to put them both in the same trench and not tell Vodafone. So when the digger dug, it cut both cables. The contractor's reasoning was that the ground was rocky and digging another trench was too hard. Kiwi ingenuity at its finest.

This is not a government responsibility. We should not be looking at the Government, but NZ Refining. They are providing a line of strategic importance and havnt put the structures in place to safeguard NZ's economy. If they want to own the pipe and make a profit then they must also take the responsibility of the role they are taking. If this was a power company that had failed to plan we would be asking for resignations.

Yes, but surely there is also a role for strong regulatory oversight given the strategic importance of the line?

The optics are not good - This episode is being reported around the world - reputation of is being tossed around - travellers, visitors, tourists are all being fully informed of the problems - thus, image wise - by default - like it or not - it eventually becomes a government problem

Can't they fill the tankers upstream of the nearest shut off valve before the rupture and then pump the contents back in downstream of the nearest valve after the rupture? They have thought of that, presumably, er ... haven't they?

Although it might seem simple to a layman, running a pipeline is definitely not that simple.

..probably did, along with calling in whale rescue with their bucket chains.

This fuel crisis is going to get worse in terms of flights cancelled before it's fixed.
By Friday, unless the pipe is fixed, reserves will be very low.
More flights cancelled.

Z this morning reported some stations already out of petrol, guess those with electric cars are smiling now

The stations currently without 95 premium are:
Z Glen Park
Z Henderson Valley
Z Hunters Corner
Z Pukekohe

The Southern Cross fibre cable is privately owned however is monitored by high powered cameras and daily fly overs and anyone, eg a boatie, who damages the fibre is 100% liable for the cost of repair.
Perhaps NZ Refining need to revisit their maintenance and security procedures and start by cutting the grass away from the warning signs and then Govt implement legislation to make whomever damages the pipe 100% liable for costs of repair.

The repair cost is in the noise as compared to all of the associated economic losses! I'm confident in thinking that that the likelihood of the entity that damaged the pipe is unlikely to be able to make any meaningful restitution on costs associated with the damaged pipe, regardless of any law providing for damages.

Agreed however threat of asset seize and restitution for the rest of the entities life is a way of ensuring they carry out due diligence before digging near the countries main fuel line.

Aside from looking at Auckland , there is also the rest of the country to consider. most major cities are on a harbour, so it would seem not too much of a concern at first glance.
however most of those harbours are either extinct volcanoes , or on faultlines. upheaval at some time in the future is entirely likely.
i would propose the govt has a backup supply of fuel tankers on container bases. these can be used by all modes of transport, boat, Rail, and truck. Rail would be able to move large volumes, presuming the Marsden point line is also built.
The containers could be also used for relief work overseas. .

How long ago was the last pipe breach?

As i said , you need to look at the fuel supply to the whole country, not just the pipeline to Auckland.