One of Hawke's Bay's most prominent service stations has taken action after a man with "ingenuity" stole $1891 of petrol from its pumps.

Petrol stations across New Zealand are struggling with a spike in drive-offs as the cost of filling up soars.

Hawke's Bay, where petrol soared to a record $2.30 a litre in some places this week, has not been immune.

In the Hastings District Court on Wednesday, Anthony Claude Ross was sentenced for consistently raiding the petrol stocks of BP Connect Stortford Lodge earlier this year.

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In the wake of Ross' crimes, motorists passing through the station noticed pumps more prone to being targeted by drive-off thieves had been switched to pre-pay only.

Petrol was less than $2 a litre when Ross embarked on his "mean-spirited" enterprise.

The Hastings man disguised his car by whipping registration plates off nine vehicles, putting a different one on before each raid between January and June.

While Ross didn't want to pay at the time, he was left with little choice but to pay-up straight away when he appeared before Judge Geoff Rea on nine charges of registration plate theft, one charge of theft representing the thefts of petrol, and five unrelated charges of shoplifting, one more of theft, one of threatening behaviour and one of failing to answer bail.

All-up he faced a reparation bill of $3264.64 across all of the offending, and asked if he could pay-up on the day, he reassured Judge Rea: "If I need to".

Saying he'd been sure at the start of the day that Ross would be off to jail, the judge ordered him to pay by 5pm on Wednesday and sentenced him to 200 hours' community work and nine months probationary supervision

It recognised the financial goodwill and also the fact that despite the spree of offending this year, Ross had little history of previous offending.

Judge Rea noted it was "mean-spirited" offending with "a lot of ingenuity" in trying to avoid detection.

BP said it didn't comment on individual sites, but technology was in place to mitigate the drive-off problem, including CCTV and number plate recognition.

"While a proportion of drive-offs are deliberate," a spokesman said, "BP adopts the approach that it could have been a genuine mistake and we train our staff to treat the customer with the same excellent standard of service shown to all our customers."

NZ's largest fuel supplier, Z Energy, which also supplies fuel to the Caltex brand, said it has witnessed a "slight increase in the number of drive-offs and the value of each occurrence", over the past month.