Labour leader Jacinda Adern says the Government has known for years there were serious risks to the supply of fuel to Auckland International Airport.

In a statement this morning, Adern says Air New Zealand raised the issue about additional jet fuel supply storage in 2012 but the Government instead set up a raft of "mishmash of minor initiatives".

Aircraft have been running on empty since the jet fuel pipeline began leaking on Thursday. NZ First MP Winston Peters claims it was damaged by a digger excavating kauri.

Peters claims the digger driver caused the damage three months ago and wonders why it wasn't fixed at the time.

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Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett was grilled by Guyon Espiner on Morning Report over a cabinet paper from 2012 in which officials advised then Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges of the serious impact of a shutdown.

However, she hadn't read the report and didn't know what the Government had put in place.

Labour party leader Jacinda Ardern says the Government has sat on its hands over the secure supply of jet fuel to Auckland International Airport. Photo / Getty Images
Labour party leader Jacinda Ardern says the Government has sat on its hands over the secure supply of jet fuel to Auckland International Airport. Photo / Getty Images

Instead, she said the pipeline wasn't owned by the Government and it should be up to the private companies to ensure it was secure.

"It's not owned by the Government, it's owned by the fuel companies and it is their job to get their product to the source where it's needed.

"I'm sure that we will now look at that and make sure we've got it all lined up properly ...there's other alternatives to a second line, and there might be things like extra storage needed in Auckland that goes beyond the eight days."

Bennett, who is also the Tourism Minister, didn't believe it would harshly affect New Zealand's tourism reputation.

But Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says the Government needs to come clean over why it never ensured there was a secure fuel supply to the airport.

"There are serious questions the Government must answer over how prepared it was for the rupture of the pipeline which is such a vital piece of infrastructure.

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"The Government has known for years that there were risks to the security of supply of fuel into Auckland, and particularly jet fuel to Auckland Airport. And they have only got worse as the city grows and air traffic expands.

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters claims the pipeline was damaged three months ago and wonders why it wasn't fixed then. Photo / Nick Reed
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters claims the pipeline was damaged three months ago and wonders why it wasn't fixed then. Photo / Nick Reed

One option raised by Air New Zealand in 2012 was for additional jet fuel storage to be built at the Wiri terminal and it urged the Government to help establish the storage facility in west Auckland.

"In a Cabinet paper from 2012 Ministry officials advised the Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges that 'such a terminal would improve the resilience of Auckland's fuel supply chain, but would involve large capital investment - our consultants estimated an upfront cost of $57m'."

Instead, she said cabinet agreed to a "mishmash of minor initiatives - among them; an oil contingency handbook, a working group of industry and officials to look at fuel security issues, allowing higher weight trucks to travel on roads".

"This was a totally short-sighted response."

Peters today said the public deserved to know what happened.

"How come signs were not put up? All we are getting from the government on this at the moment is fluff.

"The digger driver was reportedly hunting for swamp kauri at Ruakaka and the damage was done three months ago. Why was this digger working where it was and why was the damage not successfully rectified?"

He said the "debacle" was further proof a rail link had to be established to Marsden Point.

"We can't rely on a pipeline and we cannot use roads because of the enormous dangers.

"International tourism and exports are now being placed at serious risk."

Prime Minister and National party leader Bill English talks with Mike Hosking at NZME this morning. Photo / Nick Reed
Prime Minister and National party leader Bill English talks with Mike Hosking at NZME this morning. Photo / Nick Reed

Green Party MP Eugenie Sage said even if the contaminated soil had been removed, further excavation of the wetland was needed to check for implications for the water table in the wetland, water quality and native wildlife.

"Kuaka/godwits are about to return from their migration to Siberia. We need to avoid any pollution of the estuarine habitats they use to feed.

"The fact a pipeline with such significance to our transport can be ruptured and create contamination so close to a wildlife refuge shows why we need proper enforcement of the Resource Management Act to ensure our environment is protected."

She said Refining NZ should release scientific evidence to support claims there was no environmental damage from the damaged pipeline.

National leader Bill English says he is disturbed a burst pipeline had disrupted peoples' travel plans but was confident that the situation would be rectified as soon as possible.

English said Air New Zealand had told him they were doing absolutely everything they could to accommodate passengers disrupted.

He said the cost of installing a second pipeline would have had to be passed on to consumers so had not been put in. It was the first time there had been a disruption to the supply.

He said another option was to increase storage at the airport so there were greater reserves.

English was speaking during the Newstalk ZB Leader's Breakfast with Mike Hosking.