There could be a light at the end of the petrol price tunnel for motorists in Kaitaia, with Gull reportedly having bought a site for an unmanned service station in the town. Hamilton-based retailer Waitomo is also reported to be actively looking for sites throughout Northland.

The Gull station, which is believed to be awaiting resource consent, is expected to open within two years. Waitomo's prices, which tend to be 10 to 15 cents a litre cheaper, including in Wellsford, have driven down prices charged by the bigger opposition.

Prices in Kaitaia rose four cents last week, after the government's three-cent increase in excise duty took effect on Monday. The tax is scheduled to rise another four cents in July next year.

Road user charges for diesel vehicles rose by about 5.5 per cent last week.

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Northland regional transport committee chairman John Bain last week questioned why fuel was cheaper outside Northland, particularly in Wellsford, Auckland, Tokoroa, Hamilton and Tauranga. (Last week BP on Auckland's North Shore was selling 91 octane for 226.9 cents, the same as in Kaitaia, despite the city's additional 10-cent per litre tax).

Mr Bain said he had recently filled up in Tokoroa, where the price was 21 to 23 cents cheaper than in Whangārei.

"Something is not right when fuel is cheaper in the Far North than in Whangārei when it's refined in our own backyard. [Fuel is piped from the New Zealand Refinery at Marsden Pt to an adjacent truck loading facility from where deliveries to Northland service stations are made].

"Why is it that Northlanders are paying so much more for fuel than those in other parts of the country?" he asked.

Gull New Zealand general manager Dave Bodger said about 18 months ago, he drove around Northland and identified places where the company could set up shop.

Kaitaia had a "good-sized community" supporting retail giants such as The Warehouse and Pak'nSave, and he believed there was also room for Gull.

The company has an unmanned service station in Waipapa, while Waitomo has a 24-hour fuel stop in Paihia.

Meanwhile New Zealand has the sixth-lowest fuel tax in the world after Mexico, Chile, the United States, Canada and Australia. Currently just under a third of the pump price is the actual cost of refined petrol, while taxes comprise 63.78c a litre in excise (excluding the 10c/litre Auckland Regional Fuel Tax), 6.2c for the Emissions Trading Scheme and 13 per cent GST.

On Friday 91 octane was selling at 209.9 at BP and Caltex in Kerikeri, 219.9 at Caltex in Maungaturoto, 226.9 at BP in Kaitaia and Dargaville, and 215.9 at BP on Maunu Rd in Whangārei.

Diesel was 162.9 at Mobile Dargaville, 154.9 at Mobil Kamo and BP Maunu Rd, 162.9 at BP Kaitaia, 147.9 at BP and Caltex in Kerikeri, and 146.9 at Caltex in Maungaturoto.