Fuel shortage ultimately a failure to manage rapid growth

Andrew Cummings
September 19, 2017

Thousands of air passengers are stranded in New Zealand after a burst oil pipeline caused a jet fuel shortage, leading to dozens of flight cancellations.

The rupture is believed to have been caused by a digger working some months ago in farmland near Ruakaka in Northland.

The ruptured fuel pipeline between the Marsden refinery and Auckland Airport is not an airport or an airline fault. For the next few days, the Dubai-based carrier's daily direct service will include a stopover in Melbourne, Australia.

On Tuesday, 39 flights had to be cancelled - 13 of them worldwide - with concerns the crisis may spread after petrol stations in Auckland halted sales of high-octane fuel.

Air New Zealand said it is restricting ticket sales, including stopping all sales of some global services.

Most long haul flights departing from Auckland were already adding stopovers at Pacific or Australian airports to refuel.

The problem comes at an awkward time for Prime Minister Bill English, who is in the midst of campaigning for national elections which are being held on Saturday.

Airways New Zealand, the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ) and Auckland Airport have announced today the decision to temporarily increase the number of flights permitted to use the Green X23A SMART Approach flight path to the airport. Flight cancellations are being communicated to affected customers directly and are being updated on the Air New Zealand Travel Alerts page as information becomes available. The airport is working closely with airlines to monitor the impact of the temporary disruption, said Adrian Littlewood, chief executive for Auckland Airport. After that, it will take an additional 30 hours before the fuel will be ready for use and for it to reach the airport.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern said the pipeline was an important piece of infrastructure that should never have been left so vulnerable to an accident.

A spokeswoman told Stuff that Air New Zealand had closed sales for new bookings to all long haul and Pacific Island destinations for travel through until Sunday and all trans-Tasman services for travel tomorrow and Thursday. It expects up to 10 days of disruptions for passengers.

New Zealand Refining reaffirmed its expectation service to Wiri will resume between September 24 and September 26, after which it will take another 30 hours before fuel can be transported to the airport.

There was no issue around a shortage of fuel for motorists at this stage, she said.

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