High fuel price curbs travel

By Teuila Fuatai

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People are being forced to stay at home as the price of petrol soars to an all-time high, a Hawke's Bay community worker says.

The cost of fuel reached a national average of $2.23 a litre this week - its highest level since May 2011 when it peaked at $2.22.

Cathy Willers, corps administrator at the Hastings Salvation Army, told Hawke's Bay Today many people were struggling with the rising cost of living and higher petrol prices were adding to their burden.

"When you are on a fixed income, if you've budgeted $20 for petrol, that's all you've got," Ms Willers said.

"A lot of them can't use their vehicles [and] they don't go out.

"Or if they're lucky enough to have a bus nearby, then they'll take a bus."

Meanwhile, AA spokesman Mark Stockdale warned the record high prices were likely to get even steeper.

There were various reasons for the latest price hike, including higher taxes and imported fuel costs, he said. "What we're facing - among a lot of things - is inflationary cost increases. Wages have increased [and] transport costs have increased. And, therefore, it costs more to ship fuel and truck fuel."

Mr Stockdale said fuel companies were also partly to blame for the prices.

"They are passing the costs on but also they are making more money.

"The amount they earn now is higher than a few years ago."

He recommended motorists regularly maintain their cars and drive in a fuel-efficient manner to ensure they got the most from their petrol dollars.

"For many people, they don't have a choice - they need their cars.

"So they will have to cut back in other areas [and] make sure they think about how they are driving."

People should pump their tyres up at least once a month, he suggested, and plan trips so they used one run to do several things, like visit friends and grocery shopping. Motorists in regional centres had a better chance of saving on fuel than their big-city counterparts, he said.

"Because of regional competition among some of the stations, sometimes the prices in rural areas can be lower."

Several stations in Rotorua were offering prices below $2 a litre this week.

But despite the higher petrol costs, University of Canterbury Economics Professor Eric Crampton said prices were actually higher in 1981, when inflation adjusted.

"Back then [1981] petrol prices were less than 60 cents a litre. While that sounds wonderful, when you adjust for inflation, that is $2.46 per litre in today's dollars, much more than we are paying now."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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