Minister of Tourism Paula Bennett reckons the jet-fuel shortage caused by a leaking pipeline in Whangarei is embarrassing.

The pipe leaked between 60,000 and 80,000 litres up last Thursday after its protective cover had been scraped by a digger or something similar, some time in the past three years.

But Refining NZ chief executive Sjoerd Post reckons there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

He told Radio NZ "New Zealand doesn't need to be embarrassed about this.
Buncefield blew up in the UK and Heathrow was on this type of [jet fuel] allocation for a couple of years."

Advertisement

The Buncefield fire was in December 2005, at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal in England.

The terminal had the capacity for 270 million litres of fuel. There were several explosions which began with a "fuel-air" explosion in a vapour cloud of leaking fuel.

The terminal supplied 30 per cent of Heathrow Airport's fuel, and the ensuing fuel rationing went on for months.

The Whangarei pipe is expected to be fixed within 10 to 15 days.

It's not a good look for New Zealand, to have the only jet fuel line to Auckland cut off, especially after a 2011 report noted that the country was exposed to the sort of scenario we now have.

A secondary back-up costs too much.

In which case, prevention needs to be the focus. How the heck did someone hit a potentially dangerous buried pipeline?

Shouldn't it be clearly marked for all and sundry to see?
Neighbours say they had no idea it was there.

The positives are that Refining NZ's systems worked in identifying the leak, it was contained, and the environmental damage is "absolutely nil", according to Mr Post.

However, it has damaged our reputation. NZ is currently unable to meet the business needs of the travel and fuel industry and the modern-day expectations of air travellers.

As an incident, it was never going to reach the scale of the Buncefield fire.
But this doesn't reduce the embarrassment factor to nil.

It shouldn't have happened and it is embarrassing, and hopefully we learn from this so that it never happens again.