Oil companies say they will keep trying to protect earthquake-shattered Christchurch and surrounding towns from a fuel price rise that has been imposed in the rest of the country in the past two days.

Motorists elsewhere have been hit by a 5c rise which has lifted 91 octane petrol to $2.08 a litre, and diesel to $1.48 at most pumps other than those of industry minnow Gull, which was yesterday holding out against an increase.

Although the rise has pushed the price close to the record of $2.19 a litre reached in 2008 after United States oil wells were crippled by hurricane damage, the Automobile Association is commending suppliers for not passing on full import cost rises.

Spokesman Mark Stockwell said they had also waited for a week before responding to a US$10 increase in the barrel price of oil, and believed they deserved particularly high praise for cushioning Christchurch as it struggled to recover from the earthquake.

He hoped the political instability in the Middle East, especially Libya, would ease enough to deter the oil companies from lifting prices elsewhere even higher, but said motorists had to realise the world had reached the end of cheap fuel supplies and needed to do what they could to reduce consumption.

The oil companies also blamed a sharp drop in the New Zealand dollar for the latest increase, although Mr Stockwell said that had eased since last week.

He said the price freeze in Christchurch would at least give the earthquake survivors one less element of uncertainty, and discourage any repeat of the panic buying that broke out in the city last week.

Greenstone Energy chief executive Mike Bennetts said that although there might come a time when prices would also have to move in Christchurch, his company would hold off for the foreseeable future at its Shell-branded sites.

Company spokesman Jonathan Hill said there had been queues up to a kilometre long at Christchurch stations last week, but demand had since settled at the 16 out of 24 sites now able to operate after having power supplies restored.

Chevron spokeswoman Sharon Buckland said her company and its Caltex stations would try to protect Cantabrians living within an hour's drive of Christchurch "as much as we can".

BP stations are holding prices between Kaikoura and Ashburton, and Mobil has also put on the brakes in Christchurch.

GOING UP
* 91 octane petrol to $2.08 a litre.

* Diesel is at $1.48 a litre