Cut-price fuel company opens in Capital

From Checkpoint, 6:26 pm on 2 July 2019

By Harry Lock

Wellingtonians have been spared the shock of a bump to petrol taxes and road user charges with the opening of a new low-cost petrol station. 

Yesterday road user charges went up 5.5 percent and petrol around 4 cents a litre as part of the 2018 Government Policy Statement. 

However, Hamilton-based Waitomo fuel company timed its opening today nicely - undercutting the other retailers by about 30 cents a litre with a new central city site. 

Upper Hutt woman Rachel Gough was first in line to fill up and won the company's $1000 free fuel competition.

She said the win would free up some cash just in time for school holidays next week.

"My daughter wants to go out and do a few things ... she's into retail therapy and she wants to have a playdate with a friend so we're gonna possibly stay the night in a hotel and do some girly stuff."

The extra money was also a welcome relief for her partner who was diagnosed with cancer exactly one year ago.

"He's just so excited, he hasn't been happy for a long time but he was just over the moon when we found out yesterday," Ms Gough said.

"He was really looking forward to coming out today to be a part of this but unfortunately he's a bit unwell to come out so he's a bit disappointed but I've managed to scrape in a friend to be a part of it instead."

Waitomo managing director Jimmy Ormsby said they had kept an eye on the Wellington market for some time, before opening a site in Upper Hutt six weeks ago and today in Thorndon. 

"We observed before we opened and we were 20 to 30 cents a litre less so Wellington and the South Island were a little bit different than the upper North Island, so that was one of the reasons we said 'we have to do something about this' and that's why over 12 months ago we made the decision to enter the Wellington region."

Out of Waitomo's 60-odd locations, Mr Ormsby said getting this site ready was complex.

"It was reclaimed land so there was some contaminants like asbestos that we had to deal with when we dug up and put our tanks in the ground. The water table's quite high here so there was water to deal with. There was traffic here because there's a cycle lane just next door, so we had to manage that too."

A Commerce Commission report into fuel prices is currently investigating why prices can be so different across the country. The results of the study are due in December. 

Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi said the company, which keeps its prices down by having no staff on site, no store and other overheads, would bring welcome competition to the Wellington market. 

"We do think there are some issues to be looked at to make sure that Kiwis are paying a fair price at the pump. Today's experience would suggest that they could have been getting a better deal before some competition came along so we're looking forward to seeing the findings from that [study] ... and I think we'll be able to have a really clear picture of what exactly is happening around the costs consumers are paying at the pump."

Waitomo is promising it's $1.86 for 91, $1.99 for 95 and $1.16 for diesel for the next two days, and the Caltex just up the road matching it, for now.