The aviation fuel crisis caused by a ruptured pipeline has suddenly become a central issue in a tight election contest, forcing the National Government to scramble in a bid to limit impact to the travelling public and to its own vote.

With just four days to go, Opposition parties piled into National with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern claiming that the failure of the infrastructure was a failure of leadership.

The unexpected headache has the potential to undermine one of National's longstanding claims to being better managers than Labour.

But it is also an opportunity for the Government to show it can handle a crisis competently - and a test for no-nonsense Energy Minister Judith Collins in controlling the Government response.


That includes dispatching the HMZS Endeavour to move diesel from Marsden Point to other parts of the country and providing 20 Defence Force relief tanker drivers.

Ardern said the Government had known there were risks to the security of supply into Auckland from the pipeline in Marsden Point but had taken minor initiatives in 2012.

"This was an opportunity to show leadership, and genuinely invest in New Zealand's infrastructure. Instead New Zealand businesses and travellers have been badly let down."

Prime Minister Bill English said he was sure there would be more work done on security of fuel supply, after the suggestion of a second pipeline has been rejected as too costly.

"But I would expect that after this they will go back and have another look at it."

Other parties have weighed in on the crisis, using it as a chance to promote their own policies.

New Zealand First leader and Northland MP Winston Peters said it backed up his call for a rail link to be built to Marsden Point.

"We can't rely on a pipeline and we cannot use roads because of the enormous dangers. This debacle is further proof a rail link has to be established to Marsden Point."

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern on the airport pipeline, from her stand-up in Whanganui. Credit: Mark Mitchell

The Green Party's main concern was environmental damage to the area, water quality and native wildlife including godwits which are due to return from migration to Siberia.

"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," said Green MP Eugenie Sage.

Collins said the environmental impact from the pipeline leak appeared to be limited - 70,000 to 80,000 litres that escaped into a farmer's culvert had been largely recovered and there were plans under way to treat the soil.

Although the pipeline and fuel are not owned by the Government, security of supply is a Government responsibility, by oversight or regulation.

The National Government has budgeted to spend $32.5 billion on capital projects over the next four years, a 40 per cent increase on the previous four years.