11 Mar 2022

Waitomo warns customers fuel prices about to go up

From Checkpoint, 7:06 pm on 11 March 2022

Independent fuel retailer Waitomo is warning of a looming unprecedented rise in prices, but one of its rivals says it does not see a benefit in suddenly reacting to every single price shift in the market.

Petrol stations around the country have been busy today after the warning.

Waitomo chief executive Jimmy Ormsby says he's been warned of what could be the biggest single jump in wholesale price in years.

He says even as a low cost, no frills retailer, Waitomo can't absorb much of the increase, which is caused by the explosion in global prices.

Ormsby warned motorists earlier today that his firm would hold prices until early evening, but after that they will go up.

"A jump of this level is going to hurt motorists and businesses big time, so as a Kiwi business, we're doing everything we can to minimise that pain, including forewarning our customers."

He told Checkpoint that the company had to draw a line on a time for the increases to take effect so settled on 6pm and it follows on from information received from their fuel supplier this morning. 

"In my 20 years in the business I haven't seen it that big..." he said, adding that for 91 the prices would rise to around $3 a litre for 91 and $2.40 for diesel. 

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Waitomo petrol stations have been busy around the country before price increases take effect tonight.  Photo: RNZ / Barry Guy

While rivals are not following suit immediately, Ormsby said his warning to motorists was not a sales tactic. 

He said he runs a low cost business and needs to run it "sustainably".

Petrol stations around the country were busy before the price rises were due to take effect, he said. 

"We think it's a fair thing to do [letting customers know in advance] ...The price increases are just too big for us to sustain." 

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Motorists have been keen to fill up before 91 petrol hits $3 a litre.  Photo: RNZ / Barry Guy

Ormsby refused to comment on predictions that 98 could reach $4 a litre in Auckland - his chain only stocks 91 and diesel, he said. 

He also did not want to criticise Energy Minister Megan Woods, who said last month that Russia's war on Ukraine and any disruption to Russia's oil exports would not impact on petrol supply for Aotearoa. 

"There's a lot of uncertainty out there in the global market for crude and security of supply, given the events happening in Ukraine, and that's ultimately reflected in what the barrel price is and what's reflected in the pump prices in New Zealand." 

As well, his business had to absorb higher operating costs, the disruption of Covid-19 and inflation. All these costs were also having an impact on the chain's truck fleet. 

"There's inflationary things all the way through the supply chain." 

However, rival Gull said it won't be putting up petrol prices this weekend. 

Retail operations manager Mike Turner said there has been significant price volatility of late. 

But it's not in anyone's interest to react every time something changes. 

"We have said publicly that we are not going to put up prices this weekend. We don't see a benefit to Kiwis to react to every single price shift that happens in the market." 

Turner said it is difficult to predict what will happen price-wise in the future.