Petrol price hikes hitting hard

By Sonya Bateson, Lydia Anderson

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A Bay service station manager says some customers are taking their frustrations out on staff as petrol prices soar.

Western Bay drivers are holding back when it comes to filling up the tank, often topping up in piecemeal amounts.

Many customers at Mt Maunganui's Hewletts Rd Gull station purchased only $20-$40 worth of fuel per visit, station manager Rex Turnbull said.

"More and more people do not fill up, they just put in a specific amount of fuel," he said.

The Automobile Association rescued nearly 6500 drivers stranded without fuel in the year to June, down 2.5 per cent from the previous year.

Auckland drivers were the biggest fuel offenders, with the AA attending more than 2600 Auckland jobs, an increase of 4.5 per cent.

However, Bay of Plenty drivers seemed to be getting more conscientious when it came to filling up, with the number of fuel jobs at 262, down from 326 year-on-year.

AA PetrolWatch spokesman Mark Stockdale said it was possible some drivers found themselves short when petrol prices rose. "Someone who puts in $40 of fuel each week may estimate being able to get to and from work for five days.

"But when the petrol price jumps 10 cents between fills, that $40 doesn't get them as far."

Mr Turnbull said he saw the occasional walk-in customer who had run out of fuel.

When prices rose, customers became "brassed off" at his staff.

"Those people that have a bit of a concern do take it out on the staff when they shouldn't be," he said. Percy Barrett from Caltex 14th Ave said customers did take the price of petrol out on the attendants but it was just part of the job.

"We're the front line, I can't blame them. I don't think people are going on drives as much now - they don't do the Sunday drive or anything extra.

"They top up in smaller amounts and are coming back more often."

Federation of Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox said people living close to the poverty line were hit hard by petrol price spikes.

It was often a matter of holding on till payday and hoping petrol would last.

However, AA figures showed there was no clear correlation between out-of-fuel callouts and fuel price increases.

AA Roadservice's national manager John Healy said mechanical faults and flat battery jobs had trended downward, but the number of out-of-fuel jobs was fairly constant.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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