The Auckland fuel crisis will attract political attention right through to polling day, it seems, with Labour stepping up its attacks on National while Energy Minister Judith Collins maintains the government is doing all it can to help the private companies involved deal with the situation.
The NZ Herald on Monday morning led its front page with the explosive headline, "Fuel crisis make or break for Nats."
Meanwhile, the number of Z Energy petrol stations without 95 octane fuel has reportedly risen from four to 13 over the day.
Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Wellington that National had failed to act on recommendations in 2012 on improving Auckland Airport's resilience to the pipeline going out of action. She indicated she favoured the idea of greater storage facilities at Wiri, near the airport, in case this happened again.
Labour economic development spokesman Stuart Nash also waded into the debate, saying the situation was causing non-perishable exports to be taken off planes. He also said airport freight workers were having shifts cancelled.
The Greens on Tuesday said the fiasco showed how loose New Zealand's rules around swamp Kauri extraction were.
See Nash's statement below:
Export freight is being shifted off flights because of the Government’s failure to manage the risk of disruption to jet fuel supplies, says Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson Stuart Nash.
“It has been revealed to Labour that non-perishable export freight is being removed from flights to lighten the load because of the jet fuel crisis, and workers are turning up to work at Auckland Airport and finding their shifts cancelled.
“We understand that workers for foreign airlines, who don’t enjoy the same level of benefits as those contracted to Air New Zealand, are especially affected.
“Rosters are changing, crews are being turned away. Yet nothing has been said by the Government to make sure these workers are being looked after. They still have bills to pay too, Bill.
“The role of any Government is to know the risks, and prepare for them. We have clear evidence that this Government discussed the risks in a 2012 Cabinet Paper, and chose to tinker instead of building genuine resilience into the supply network.
“This is the 21st century and in a modern country a digger driver shouldn’t have such a serious impact on our national economy. This is a failure of leadership and management by National.
“There are serious questions of the Government’s handling that remain unanswered.
“We’re aware that freight is being removed from flights. How much, and what is the Government doing to mitigate the potential losses for our exporters?
“What will be done to support workers who find their shifts have been cancelled or curtailed?
“If the damage was known last Thursday, why did it take three days for it to become known, so our businesses, travellers and freight companies could better prepare for the impact?
“And if National really is the party of infrastructure, how could they sit back in full knowledge of the risks of disruption to the fuel supply without planning for better storage of fuel reserves?
“The answer is that the Government doesn’t have the answers. They’ve been caught out, and it’s our exporters, travellers, businesses who’ve been harmed, and New Zealand’s reputation along with it,” says Stuart Nash.
Energy & Resources Minister Judith Collins released the following update Tuesday afternoon:
The Government is actively supporting industry efforts to address the disruption arising from the Marsden Point fuel pipeline outage, Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins says.
“The Government is continuing to identify and implement a range of measures to free up the movement of fuel to where it is needed, and minimise disruption to Kiwi and visitors.
“While air travel will continue to be affected until the pipeline is fully operational, the fuel industry has advised government that impacts on petrol and diesel supply for motorists are minimal,” Ms Collins says.
The New Zealand Defence Force is providing significant logistical support to assist in the movement of fuel and taking measures to supplement supply.
“NZDF have taken steps to reduce its jet fuel demand and further options to help fuel supply are being worked through.
“They are currently talking with industry about when and where the 20 Category 5 NZDF tanker drivers and 2 trucks can best be deployed to transport fuel.
“We’re moving on several fronts in transport to do everything possible to improve supply. The NZTA are assisting with resources, systems and processes to allow Over Weight Permits (OWP’s) to be processed quickly. This includes ensuring the routes cause minimal disruption to the roading network.”
Weight restrictions have been lifted by 15 per cent for fuel tankers and a number of other measures are also being progressed including:
- Removing restrictions on when fuel can be delivered to service stations and truck stops
- Allowing fuel tankers to us bus and transit lanes
- Extending the permissible driving hours where safe to do so
The Government is also acting to minimise impacts on travellers. Immigration NZ is providing advice to clients whose NZ visas are at risk of expiring due to cancellations or postponements. Any people whose visas are due to expire will be given an electronic visa free of charge.
Read the Greens' statement below:
Speculation over the cause of the aviation fuel pipeline fiasco shows how loose the rules around swamp kauri excavation are, the Green Party said today.
“The fact that no one seems sure whether or not digging for swamp kauri was the cause of the pipeline rupture highlights, once again, how loosely the Ministry for Primary Industries and Northland Regional Council control and monitor swamp kauri exploitation,” said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.
“Swamp kauri excavators can just dig up land looking for swamp kauri without having to get a resource consent to do so, as long as it’s not in what the Regional Council considers indigenous wetland. No one appears to keep good records of where and how the excavation is happening.
“Swamp kauri exploitation is the worst sort of gold rush with virtually anyone able to dig up ancient kauri and ship it offshore with little regard for the environment or major infrastructure like fuel pipelines.
“If that is what has happened here, it shows how vulnerable our environment is to plunder by swamp kauri excavators, and the failure to have proper land use controls and management of the pipeline corridor.
“Swamp kauri excavation does huge damage to wetlands by destroying vegetation, wetlands, and natural water flow and drainage patterns. This degrades habitats and ecosystems.
“New Zealand has already lost 90 percent of wetlands, which act as kidneys in the landscape; filtering and cleaning water. We can’t afford to lose any more because of loose rules that don’t protect our environment from short term exploitation," Ms Sage said.