Fuel prices in Hawke's Bay have hit an all-time record, opening a window of opportunity for the region's struggling public transport network.
The most expensive petrol was at the peak of soaring nationwide petrol prices in October 2018, when Hawke's Bay's lowest fuel price hit $2.24 at Gull in Waipukurau.
the cheapest was Allied Napier on Richardson Pl at $2.27 a litre, which also offered the lowest prices for unleaded 95 petrol at $2.39 according to the petrol price app Gaspy, at about 10am.
Gull stores across Hastings and Napier offered the lowest prices for unleaded 98 petrol ($2.51).
The cheapest diesel could be found at Puketapu Store on Dartmoor Rd for $1.39.
Meanwhile, some of the most expensive fuel was at Gas Pakowhai on Pakowhai Rd, which was charging $2.48 for unleaded 91 petrol and Mobil Stortford Lodge, where unleaded 95 was being sold for $2.66.
Mobil stores in Havelock North, Napier and Hastings were charging $2.72 for unleaded 98, along with BP Connect Stortford Lodge, while the top price for diesel could be found at Z Hastings Truckstop for $1.74 for diesel.
Hawke's Bay Regional councillor and chairman of the regional transport committee Martin Williams said the region's car use per capita was higher when fuel prices were low, meaning there was an opportunity now for alternatives.
"When prices are low, bus patronage rates decreased.
"We'd now expect people to be thinking about other options and that's why I've been so strongly championing it."
The use of buses declined in Hawke's Bay from 799,000 "boardings" in 2013-14 to 645,000 in 2018-19.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council's draft Regional Land Transport Plan (2021-2031) noted that just 0.5 per cent of commuters take the bus to work each morning - roughly 940 people.
Putting climate change aside, a strong public transport network needed to be about "equity of access to transportation", Williams said.
"It's those least able to afford car repairs or petrol who are the most in need of public transport. But they cannot find the current public transport provisions that are suitable for them.
"Buses might be at the wrong times or go to the wrong places."
Williams said it wasn't the kind of thing that could be fixed overnight, which was why the regional council was working hard on its soon-to-be rolled out on-demand service.
In the interim, it had brought down bus fares to a flat fee of $2, and introduced card payments to make it easier for people to use.
"Before we get to on-demand, we are trying to make the public transport service more user-friendly."
Terry Collins, principal policy adviser for the Automobile Association, told Hawke's Bay Today last week that he didn't expect prices to drop any time soon. He said he thought they would continue to rise ahead of Christmas.
Collins acknowledged it was "obviously hurting" and starting to "bite" many families, especially those already struggling.
It was worth shopping around and signing up to fuel discount schemes, some of which were also linked to supermarkets, he added.