The owner of a property where a fuel pipeline burst causing fuel shortages could face prosecution even if someone else did the damage.
Northland Regional Council has begun an investigation into the breakage alongside a similar inquiry by the pipeline owner Refining New Zealand.
The company believes the steel pipe which connects to the Marsden Point refinery was damaged by a digger before it ruptured, spilling 60,000 litres of jet fuel.
The resulting fuel shortage caused flight delays and cancellations at Auckland Airport that affected thousands of travellers, and forced jet fuel and petrol to be trucked into the city.
Northland Regional Council regulatory services manager Colin Dall said the council has tried to contact the owner of the land but had been unsuccessful.
He said the owner could face prosecution, even if someone else did the damage, under a provision in the Resource Management Act relating to strict liability.
"Parties can still be responsible for, or be found to have contributed to, the escape of contaminant.
"They are still liable even if they did not do the damage themselves."
Mr Dall said the council had spoken with neighbours who advised that diggers had been on the property from time to time over the last several years.