Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says he is prepared to use specially controlled traffic lights and bus lanes to get tankers through city streets in a bid to solve the fuel crisis.

Goff told the Herald the Auckland Council would do all it could to get fuel to where it was needed, including measures that could worsen the city's already chronic congestion. "We're the international gateway to New Zealand and that gateway has to stay open," said Goff.

So far the main impact of the ruptured fuel pipeline remains at Auckland Airport, where further flights have been cancelled and Air New Zealand has taken the extraordinary step of restricting sales of tickets.

Public servants were told yesterday not to fly unless it was absolutely essential.


Air NZ announced last night that it was restricting ticket sales to try to ease pressure on the airline. Doing so would make room for some passengers affected by the four transtasman and 26 domestic flights cancelled since Sunday.

"This includes stopping all sales on some selected international services."

More flights are being cancelled today, including five to Australia, two to Fiji and a return flight to Vietnam.

Air NZ said 3000 customers would be affected by today's cancellations and 6000 more had suffered unexpected schedule changes.

The crisis is understood to have begun with one person on a digger in a paddock in rural Ruakaka.

Claw markers from a digger were found where fuel spilled from the critical 170km pipeline connecting Refining NZ's Marsden Pt oil refinery to Auckland.

Repair crews have been working constantly since the extent of the damage was discovered over the weekend.

Goff said he had told Energy Minister Judith Collins preventive action was needed to stop such a crisis from happening again.

Phil Goff's plans to aid tanker rescue threatens to add to Auckland traffic congestion. Photo / Nick Reed
Phil Goff's plans to aid tanker rescue threatens to add to Auckland traffic congestion. Photo / Nick Reed

He likened it to the critical infrastructure failure in the late 1990s when Auckland's sole link to the electricity network failed, leading to extensive and lengthy failures across the city.

"What we're going to have to look at is how we can improve resilience of fuel supply into Auckland. The single point of entry is a constant problem in terms of essential services into the city."

Goff said he had been asked if Auckland would pay for such action, which he flatly rejected.

He said the fuel companies would have to cover the cost.

"They're going to have to do the right thing and if they don't, then maybe the Government will look at regulation."

Goff said a second pipeline was too expensive, which meant a greater focus on preventive measures was needed.

"They need to do a check that they are doing all that is necessary to prevent someone putting a digger through it."

Goff said he had lived on the pipeline route in Hillsborough during the 1980s when there were daily checks. "I don't think they do that any more."

He said such work needed to be carried out, including dealing with the potential for deliberate sabotage.

The mayor said he was told repairs were likely to be finished between Sunday and Tuesday, at which point 30 hours of work would be needed to flush the pipeline clear for a fresh flow of jet fuel.

"You're talking about keeping planes in the sky," he said. "You can't afford to have the engines go out because of contaminants."

Air NZ staff are contacting customers during the fuel shortage at Auckland Airport. Photo / Supplied
Air NZ staff are contacting customers during the fuel shortage at Auckland Airport. Photo / Supplied

The damage to the pipeline has previously been estimated to have reduced the flow of petrol to Auckland and upper Waikato by 27 per cent and jet fuel by 61 per cent.

Petrol can go by road to Auckland service stations, but jet fuel cannot.

Goff said he had been told jet fuel use had been cut to two-thirds since the rupture, down to about one million litres a day. The oil companies had asked the airport to reduce use to 30 per cent.

He said Auckland Council would do what it could to help and there were discussions about bringing fuel into Wynyard wharf, synchronising traffic lights to make it easier for tankers to get through the city, allowing tankers to use bus lanes and not enforce consent breaches for tankers delivering supplies during the night.

Air New Zealand said it was trying to reduce cargo loaded and had started refuelling some aircraft on long-haul flights at Wellington Airport.

Had a wee visit from Air New Zealand big bird b777-200ER this evening #gasandgo đź“· Shane Saheem

Posted by Wellington International Airport on Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Other flights were refuelling at Australian and Pacific airports on their return to New Zealand to ease pressure on Auckland's fuel supply.

Fuel rationing by oil companies has seen airport bosses grabbing every litre, which will see more planes taking approaches to landing over urban areas. Auckland Airport doubled to 20 the number of planes taking the route from 5pm yesterday and expected to save 2000 litres of fuel a day.

Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers said that was almost enough fuel to get an Airbus from Auckland to Wellington. He said he hoped Aucklanders understood the need to increase flights over where people lived, but the decision to do so was made "in the best interests of the city and the country".

A special tanker route was being set up to get fuel from Mt Maunganui to Auckland, passing through Hamilton. The NZ Transport Authority did not know how many tankers would be on the route, but was not expecting large convoys.