FUEL PRICES WILL STAY UP

rnb transport trucks hold protest against fuel excise tax

The government recently announced that although it’s acting on high fuel prices, there won’t be an improvement until next year. Transport and logistics industries will be the ones most affected by fuel price increases in the long term. RNB Transport held a protest against the mos recent fuel excise on Monday, with almost 200 trucks driving from Silverdale to Fanshawe St at rush hour in protest of the tax. “Everything is transported by trucks,” explained protest organiser Rob Ryan. “It affects everybody.”

The most recent fuel excise of 3.5c is the last of consumers’ worries, as there are a host of reasons fuel is suddenly so expensive. There’s GST, Auckland regional tax, a 19c increase from oil firms this year, and perhaps most significantly the exchange rate: New Zealand imports its petrol, diesel, and some crude oil. With the NZ dollar dropped to 0.66 compared to the US dollar, bringing in fuel is expensive.

Ryan’s protest was aimed at removing the Auckland regional tax, but Energy Minister Megan Woods feels this is unlikely to make a difference, suggesting fuel companies would simply “gobble up” the difference.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has prioritised the Commerce Amendment Bill, which will give the Commerce Commission power to conduct fuel market studies. “[Petrol companies] haven’t opened up their books to us in the past; so we’re going to have to force their hand,” stated Ardern. The government hopes to have this bill go through within the next two weeks.

The Auckland regional fuel tax is affecting individuals, not just companies, with the council agreeing 13-7 to levy an 11.5c tax on fuel in the Auckland region. The Auckland regional tax will raise $1.5 billion over the next ten years, which will allow the council to invest in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project and overhaul the city’s public transport networks – including building networks out of the CBD. Although individuals’ transport woes will be alleviated by the planned public networks, consumers will still suffer from a slight price hike in goods due to the financial pressure transport companies will face.

“The real question is why we have record highs for fuel when crude oil is only $80 per barrel,” said an energy industry spokesperson. “That’s less than in 2013/14.” Most of fuel’s cost at the pump comes from the government: road taxes, petrol taxes, and GST make up 60 percent of the cost and have done for some time.

Producers aren’t profiting from the high oil prices, and although the government still makes the most from fuel it isn’t responsible for the full 39c hike this year. Refiners, shipping companies, and other middlemen are more likely sources of the cost increase.

The Commerce Commission’s involvement is likely to provide assurance to the public and government, as well as uncover where the source of the increase is. Consumers can expect a slight increase in costs until at least early next year.