Whale, oil beef hooked, Crusher is going to raise hell about the neglected privately owned pipeline

Just like Chorus (then Telecom) is more than just a private company because it delivers essential infrastructure to the nation, the oil companies have a similar responsibility.

If there’s one thing Bill English and his team know, it’s crisis management. Think earthquakes, floods and the global financial crisis.

So does the oil crisis play right into National’s hands – or will it do the opposite, and sink its hard-earned reputation as being a safe pair of hands?

With Collins on the job, that’s a rhetorical question.   

Crisis may be too strong a word. But thousands of travellers have been affected by damage to an oil pipeline between Marsden Point refinery in Whangarei and Auckland. Aviation fuel supplies have been hardest hit – apparently a guy on a digger is all it takes to wipe out the only oil pipeline into the city.

Ouch. That’s not National’s fault though is it?

Yes and no. The Government doesn’t own the refinery, the big oil companies do. So the pipeline should be their responsibility. But it has emerged the Government was warned repeatedly that Auckland Airport was vulnerable to just such an incident. Among those alerting the Government to the threat was fuel retailer Z Energy, which warned in 2012 the risk of disruption to the Auckland fuel pipeline was probably four times more likely than government officials predicted.

And let’s not forget the Labour government were similarly informed in 2005.

But what could the Government do?

Z Energy argues that on an issue as critical as security of supply and infrastructure investment the Government should have intervened. But despite a number of reports warning it about the risk, the Government accepted the industry view that the costs of any solutions were prohibitive. However, Z Energy disputes that, putting the cost at around $200 million – or around 0.5c a litre of petrol over five years.

Will it have an impact on the election?

On a purely practical level yes. With thousands of travellers stranded and dozens of flights cancelled, the Government has been forced to order the public service to defer all non- essential travel. Bill English has even told his MPs to stay at home in their electorates rather than get out on the road. With the fuel crisis now stretching into next week, and a ripple effect on motorists, the effects will continue to be widely felt.

Meh, no.  Not widely.

What else?

Politically this could hurt the Government because it plays into the Opposition meme of a Government that has under invested in critical infrastructure and services for the last nine years. But it could play the other way as well, giving National a platform from which to show its well honed crisis management skills.

It’s a privately owned pipeline.  The government does not have a statutory obligation to invest in a private company.  In fact, if they did, we’d raise hell.

…repair work on the actual pipeline itself is what will eventually get the planes back in the air. But that won’t be finished till after the election, so there could be quite a bottle neck at Auckland airport Monday morning when MPs head back to Wellington to negotiate the next government.

Just a few thoughts

  • Oil companies have been charging us for healthy profits for decades.  To claim they can’t afford to maintain their own infrastructure and needs the government to “intervene” is disgusting.  Corporate welfare at its worst.   They have deliberately let this critical asset become unfit for purpose.  If it was me, I’d drag them into court.  It may still come to that.
  • Onya New Zealand Defense Force for rolling up the sleeves.  But why the hell do we need to mobilise armed forces to protect our country from a bunch of money sucking private companies?   There will be tears.
  • Crusher will crack heads together and then she will have an inquiry to fix the blame fair and square where it belongs:  with the fuel companies, that no one likes.

All round a win-win for the government while Jacinda and Robbo moan about National’s campaign strategy being unfair to them.


– Tracey Watkins, Stuff

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