Ouch again


Petrol in Omarama is always more expensive than bigger centres on the coast. 

 But yesterday’s $2.25 a litre for regular was a shock for the pocket when it had been $2.09 in Oamaru a few days earlier.



The petrol gauge on my car has 10 little blocks stacked vertically.

Unlike the gauges I’ve been used to in other vehicles which are more like a clock with a hand that moves gradually round the face, the blocks drop off suddenly one at a time.

Unless I’ve noticed when it gets down to the last couple it’s easy to get down to the final block and the warning that I’m almost out of fuel.

Filling a tank that is almost empty has never been cheap – but yesterday was the first time it’s ever cost more than $90 – ouch.

It was at a BP station which was charging $2.09 a litre. That might seem steep but if oil prices rise and our dollar falls fuel prices will become even more expensive.

Where are the highest and lowest fuel prices?


Inventory 2 at Keeping Stock spotted unleaded 91 petrol selling for $2.00.9  a litre at BP in W(h)anganui last week.

BP & Caltex in Wanaka were both selling unleaded 91 for $2.07.9 at the weekend.

Is this the range of fuel prices in the country or are they higher and lower in other places?

Going, going . . .


Running out of fuel is rarely convenient for the people in the vehicle and any others they hold up. This gives me some sympathy for the plan to fine people who get caught short on motorways.

However, while in the past I might have thought running out of petrol was carelessness I’m now wondering if at least some of the time the fuel gauge might be partially responsible.

Petrol gauges in most cars I’ve driven regularly have had a half circle with a hand which moved from full to empty pretty evenly.

My current vehicle, a Toyota Corolla, has ten blocks stacked on top of each other.


The first block lasts 150 – 180 kilometres, the next couple take me around 90 kilometres each, and so it continues with the lower ones taking lesser distances to drop.

The second last one lasts around 40 kilometres and the last one lets me travel about half that distance before the warning beep tells me the car’s out of fuel.

It’s not, but even if I didn’t live 20 kilometres from the nearest petrol station I wouldn’t be keen to find out when empty really means empty.

I’ve worked out that when the gauge shows the car has half a tank of fuel it really has only about a third, but unless I notice when it drops to half I can’t be sure if it has that much or less.

The mechanic who services the car said that was the way the gauges work  and the one in his car, of the same make but different model, also dropped faster as the tank emptied.

It might be the way they do work but it’s not the way they should work.

There’s a visual design fault to start with. Gauges like clock faces have a block of red near empty which reinforces the message you are running short of fuel. Two solid blocks don’t portray the same level of urgency.

Then there’s the lack of connection between what it shows and how much fuel there really is. It’s not so much a gauge as an indicator, and an unreliable one at that. Unless I’m very careful about keeping an eye on it I’m in danger of finding the distance I need to travel isn’t quite up to the fuel available for travelling it.

How far is too far for fuel?


The petrol station at Hampden, north of Moeraki on State Highway 1, has closed.

There are fuel stops at Herbert and Maheno about 10 and 14 kilometres further north so it’s not too much further for travellers, but how long will petrol stations stay in very small towns?

When I stopped for fuel at a small town petrol station yesterday the owner told me that if he hadn’t recently put in new tanks he’d have been tempted to stop selling petrol and diesel and stick to servicing vehicles because the margins on fuel were hardly worth the trouble.

I’m training myself  to check the fuel gauge before leaving bigger towns on long journeys because it can be a long way to the next petrol station, especially outside business hours.

However, the training isn’t complete and I’ve been fortunate to find bowsers which enable you to pay by credit or Eftpos card which have saved me from running out of fuel late at night a couple of times.

Travellers not used to long distances between fuel stops could easily get caught short.

It’s also a problem is for people living in or near the small towns which no longer have fuel outlets. Some, particularly the elderly, do most of their driving within a relatively confined area of where they live and they’re forced to do a longer trip simply to refuel.

Petrol not fast to rise and slow to fall


A government study found that, contrary to popular belief, petrol prices don’t rise quickly and fall slowly.

The key findings of the review were:

* The New Zealand petrol market is fundamentally competitive;

* Price rises are mainly due to increases in crude oil price overseas;

* Retail petrol prices are not fast to rise and slow to fall;

* A Fuelwatch scheme like that in Australia (where petrol prices are published and fixed for a certain time) would not work in New Zealand as the market is different; and

* There was a need for more transparency on importer margins and reporting them would be useful for consumers.

The report, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Development, found we’ve got the fifth lowest petrol prices inclusive of taxes in the OECD.

I’m pleased we’re not going to waste money on a Fuelwatch scheme. But I’m not sure that there is much comfort in having the fifth lowest prices in the world when that price is so high and impacts on almost everything we do or buy.

If you think city fuel prices are high…


… try driving in the provinces.

Poneke  tells us that 91 octane petrol in Wellington has reached 218.9 cents a litre.

In Wanaka it’s 2.269 for 91;  and 2.349 for premium. 

Diesel is 199.9 cents a litre and of course Road User Charges come on top of that.


Fuel Tax Better Than Road User Charges?


Petrol is more expensive than diesel because the former has a fuel tax levied on it and the latter doesn’t. But diesel powered vehicles pay Road User Charges instead.

The chair of the Road Transport Forum, Steve Doughty told Mary Wilson on Checkpoint last night that he’d be keen on an investigation to determine if fuel tax might be better than RUCs.

My initial reaction to this is positive. RUCs are based on distance, the further you go the more you pay. That sounds fair enough until you work out that vehicles which travel further efficiently pay more than those which travel a shorter distance inefficiently.

Fuel taxes, are consumption taxes so the more you use the more you pay and there is a financial incentive to use it efficiently.

Doughty reckons that the administration on RUCs costs around $100 million a year. That sounds high but there must be a lot of paper work involved with all the vehicles each with individual RUCs which need to be purchased and processed.  It would be simpler and cheaper to pay fuel tax at the pump as we do for petrol.

Changing from RUCs to fuel tax might be more expensive for people with diesel powered cars who drive short distances. But it would definitely be easier and, by reducing the adminsitration,  possibly cheaper for every vehicle covering long distances.

It would also relieve traffic police of the task of checking RUCs are up to date and writing tickets if they’re not 🙂

Petrol up 6c


Ouch: Caltex has put the price of petrol up by 6 cents to 206.9 cents/litre for 91 octane; 95 is 211 and diesel is 179.9.

The first impact is on everyone’s pockets; it will also boost inflation because transport is involved somewhere in just about everything we do.

The continually rising price of fuel is also one of the reasons that extra money thrown at health, education and other taxpayer-funded sectors hasn’t made much impact on services – it’s gone on rising costs leaving less for the front-line services.

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