New Zealanders feel pinch at pump as fuel prices reach heights not seen since before pandemic

Kiwis are feeling a pinch at the pump as fuel prices reach heights not seen since before the pandemic.

Data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which measures the average cost of fuel across New Zealand's major cities every week, shows since 2015 the price of fuel has been trending upwards.

In the past 18 months, pre-pandemic prices hit $2.41 a litre before taking a dip as the world shut down and demand plunged.

But as the world is opening up again, so too are petrol prices. Last week the average was $2.37 a litre and showing no sign of slowing down. 

Petrol has become such a necessity in our lives, selling it is one of the few things considered an 'essential service' during COVID lockdowns. But recent price hikes have got people talking.

According to fuel price observation tool Gaspy, the average cost of 91 across New Zealand today is $2.24 - an increase of almost 10 cents in the last 28 days. It's something Gull general manager Dave Bodger has seen reflected across his stores.

"There's several factors in there, the price of carbon, Kiwi dollar and international prices are marching upwards," he says.

It's the international influence that could be about to cause further pain at the pump.

Remember, as the world hunkered down to wait out the pandemic, cars sat stationary in driveways and planes parked on the tarmac for months on end.

But all those gas-guzzlers, and their passengers are slowly coming out of hibernation.

"With restrictions say, in the UK easing on the 19th of July people are going to be more mobile, people will drive their cars more, they will go on holiday more and likely that will increase demand," Bodger says.

Higher prices are already seeing Kiwis change their habits.

"If I know that there is going to be a cheap petrol day, I might only put in $10 or $20 and fill up more the next day," one tells Newshub.

The AA's Mike Noon says it pays to shop around to find the best price.

"There is still a lot of variability. I just had a look, we're here on the Kapiti Coast, the cheapest price for 91 is $2.17 and it goes up to $2.34," he says.

For drivers who are looking to fill up on the cheap best to try Hamilton or east Christchurch where you can find fuel for close to $2 a litre.

But you're out of luck if you're in the Auckland CBD where several stations are charging $2.43 on Sunday afternoon.

Towns and cities at the bottom of the world, feeling the pinch of a global trend.