Price differences fuelling the feud

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Fuel price increases nationwide has some Ashburton residents questioning why they pay more per litre than some other Canterbrian towns.

Fuel prices in Rolleston and Timaru have previously sat between 20-30 cents cheaper per litre than fuel in Ashburton, a variation that has gone somewhat unnoticed.

Until now.

With fuel prices creeping past the $3/litre mark, Ashburton locals have begun to take stock of the difference in price between towns, taking to social media to demand why Ashburton consumers are being ‘ripped off’.

Some locals have suggested favouring smaller fuel suppliers over larger competitors in the hopes that a united front will shift the power and encourage more companies to maintain lower pump prices.

A spokesperson from Z Energy said the cost of local fuel prices are set by their head office, not by the individual stations, and “prices can be different at service stations within regions or even the same towns based on a range of factors”.

Diesel has fluctuated grossly, with the average cost per litre across the country sitting around $2.51/litre, and sell prices sitting even higher.

Over the past week local stations have displayed diesel prices between $2.79/litre and $3.01/litre.

A spokesperson for BP directed inquiries to their online FAQ page, but unfortunately weren’t able to offer any localised response.

Z Energy said the price of diesel directly relates to the cost of refined fuel, stating “the biggest driver for the recent price increase for diesel is the significant rise in transfer price, driven by a global surge in demand as they seek to replace Russian oil.”

Earlier this year the European Union decided to ban the importation of Russian oil following escalations of war between Russia and Ukraine.

But why is Ashburton’s fuel dearer than surrounding townships?

Ashburton competitors Z and BP are conveniently located for everyday traffic and heavy vehicles travelling on State Highway 1, enticing people to choose convenience and the likely use of a loyalty card such as FlyBuys, over a 10c/litre saving.

Z Energy identifies property overheads and local competition as contributors to the pump prices set at local fuel stations.

Ashburton lacks its own ports and fuel imported by boat must be transported either from Timaru or Lyttelton; the cost of transportation also influences pump prices.

Methven is able to maintain cheaper fuel prices than Ashburton, but the companies dominating the Methven market are smaller, New Zealand owned and operated businesses with fewer overheads and different business values.

Their goal to remain current in the New Zealand market allows them to undercut profit margins and other competitors to maintain favour of local consumers.

Less profit, but more loyalty.

In March 2022, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labelled the $3/litre costs as a ‘fuel crisis’, reducing fuel tax by 25 cents per litre from March 15, and introducing a 36% reduction in road user charges on April 21 in an effort to ease financial pressure on consumers.

However, the relief was shortlived as petrol prices quickly crept up again, surging past the $3/litre threshold with diesel prices continuing to follow closely behind.

And while everyone is feeling the sting of fuel costs, attention for the once-dubbed diverted to supermarket price freezes and increasing gang violence.

-By Indi Roberts