The fuel pipeline ruptured by a digger was left out of a "national infrastructure plan" overseen by Prime Minister Bill English despite warnings its loss could "cripple" Auckland transport.

The latest version of the plan developed by Treasury was released in 2015 has no mention of the pipeline from the Marsden Point refinery at Ruakaka to Auckland's Wiri terminal.

The pipeline has been shown as a critical link because it is the only way jet fuel gets to Auckland Airport.

The fuel crisis has seen Air New Zealand restrict ticket sales, flights cancelled and postponed, petrol stations out of fuel, Government tell public servants to avoid flying if they have to and the NZ Defence Force called on to help.


But the weakness in the fuel supply was clearly highlighted in 2009 when the National Party put Treasury to work fulfilling a campaign pledge that it would develop a National Infrastructure Plan when it first came to power.

English announced the plan as Minister of Finance in 2009, saying it would "plan and rank New Zealand's key infrastructure needs so that projects that provide the greatest economic benefit are prioritised".

But when the Northland Regional Council reviewed the preliminary list produced in 2009, it said "the council considers that the nationally significant issue of fuel supply is currently missing" from a Treasury briefing paper calling for submissions.

The council covers the Marsden Point refinery where the fuel pipeline begins its 170km journey to Auckland.

"The New Zealand Refinery is the only oil refinery within the country and as such is a nationally significant facility.

"Interruptions to the refining process or pipeline which transfers fuel to Auckland have the potential to cripple Auckland's road freight, public transport and private vehicle use."

The council submission said Auckland International Airport had just three days of fuel storage.

"The council requests that this topic be included in any future work on a National Infrastructure Plan."


Council chief executive Malcolm Nicolson said yesterday that the council's position had not changed. Through a spokesman, he said: "Council would still like to see it included."

The first National Infrastructure Plan was produced in 2010 and English said it was intended to increase growth, keep employment high and would be key to "reducing New Zealand's vulnerability to adverse events".

The 2011 plan carried a passing reference to the pipeline in a summary of the energy sector, saying only that it "carries 40 per cent of total fuel volumes".

The most recent version of the National Infrastructure Plan was released in 2015 saying it charted the next 30 years of development.

English wrote the foreword to the plan, saying: "Infrastructure supports much of our daily lives - even if it isn't something we think about unless it is going wrong."

There is no mention of the fuel pipeline in the plan which details roading plans, school and hospital redevelopment and plans to build stadiums.

The Northland Regional Council submission was not the only one to raise concerns about the potentially fragile nature of the fuel pipeline.

The Aviation Industry Association of New Zealand's submission said it had identified the fuel pipeline on the basis it was infrastructure which served the "national good".

It said the initial Treasury briefing on development of the plan "overlooks the criticality of ensuring fuel supply both to the Auckland Airport - the point of primary distribution - but also the maintenance and development of the network throughout New Zealand".

A spokesman for Treasury said the infrastructure plan was "a higher level and more strategic document designed to bring about a change in approach to how we think about infrastructure".

He said individual agencies had "a much greater level of detail about infrastructure assets and networks and how these are managed from a resilience perspective".

In the case of the pipeline, that was work done by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

A 2012 review by MBIE found fuel infrastructure was well managed and the industry coped well with supply issues. It raised backup options to the fuel pipeline but found the cost outweighed the benefit.

English did not respond to request for comment.