The Government appears to have no plans to reduce the amount of tax Kiwis pay at the petrol pump, despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's repeated comments that New Zealanders are being "fleeced".
She immediately copped flak for this from National leader Simon Bridges, who called her the "fleecer-in-chief".
This morning, the Commerce Commission unveiled its draft report into competition in the fuel market.
The probe was ordered by the Government after Ardern took aim at petrol companies in October last year and said they were "fleecing" Kiwis.
And she did not skip a beat this morning when asked if this was still the case.
"Yes," she told media on her way to Labour's caucus meeting.
"You will remember our instinct was that New Zealanders were being fleeced at the pump – now the Commerce Commission has confirmed that that is true."
The main finding of the Commission's draft report was that New Zealand's fuel market "is not as competitive as it could be".
But speaking to media this morning, Commerce Commission Chairwoman Anna Rawlings would not explicitly use the word "fleece".
"What the draft report says is that if competition was working well in these markets, we may well expect consumers to pay less for petrol than they are currently paying."
When pressed, she said "fleeced" would not be a term the Commerce Commission would use.
The market regulator did say that there was a lack of competition in the Kiwi petrol market and this was keeping prices high.
In its draft report, the commission also broke down the costs per litre of 91 octane – the most regularly used petrol in the country.
On average, 91 is $2.20 a litre – 84c of that is importer cost and 34c is the importer margin.
But 97c of the total price was tax.
Rawlings told media the commission did not look into the tax side of petrol prices – it only looked at the petrol company's margins.
But Ardern said the increase in tax has been outstripped "by far" by what has been happening around the margins.
"When you look at fuel prices over the last decade that does not explain what has been happening in our market."
The draft report said New Zealand has some of the highest margins in the OECD.
But Bridges lumped much of the blame for the recent high fuel prices on the Government.
Since being elected, the Government has added almost 24c in fuel taxes – 12c in excise and 11.5c in the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax.
"For all the blame on the petrol companies, the biggest increase this term will be petrol taxes from Jacinda Ardern."
He agreed that the fuel industry could be made more competitive, for example buying back terminals from private companies or regulating access to the market.
"If it wasn't for the Government's taxes, [91 fuel per litre] would be much more around the $2 mark, and that would be much more affordable for families really struggling."
In response to the draft report, BP offered a very brief statement, noting that it had co-operated "in full" with the commission and will be participating in the upcoming consolations.