New Zealand fuel shortage disrupts air travel before national election

Cheryl Sanders
September 21, 2017

Whether the fuel crisis will have an impact on New Zealand's election remains unclear.

The fuel shortage, caused by a damaged pipeline to Auckland Airport, has caused widespread disruption to air travel over the past week, with dozens of domestic and worldwide flights cancelled.

An enforced shortage on fuel supply to airlines operating out of Auckland means Fiji Airways may have to divert aircraft to other airports to pick up fuel, combine or even cancel flights. National carrier Air New Zealand said about 9,000 passengers would be affected on Wednesday alone, with about a third having their flights cancelled.

Since the pipeline carrying jet fuel from Marsden Pt ruptured last week, planes departing Auckland Airport were asked to operate with only 30 per cent of normal fuel levels.

Immigration New Zealand will issue free electronic visas to people whose visas are expiring because of cancelled flights during the jet fuel crisis.

"Guests travelling to/from Auckland over the next two weeks are also requested to check if their flight departure/arrival times are affected by visiting the flight status section of our website or by contacting our reservations centre".

A spokesman for New Zealand Refining told Reuters the pipeline was closed for repairs and was expected to return to 70 per cent capacity by September 24 to 26.

The damage to the pipeline from the Marsden Point refinery is believed to have been caused by a digger.

The refinery supplies refined petroleum products to Wiri Oil Services Ltd in Auckland, which in turns supplies airlines with aviation fuel at the airport.

Up to 27 flights from Auckland were suspended until Sunday and the restauration of fuel supplies could take between 10 to 14 days.

"Airlines advise that passengers should expect some disruptions to their flights and urge passengers to check their flight status' regularly online".

Auckland Council and its council-controlled organisations are working closely with the government to assist in addressing issues associated with the pipeline rupture and resulting fuel challenges.

Mr English said military trucks and a naval tanker have been assigned to transport fuel around the country and help ensure supplies for motorists are maintained.

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