Auckland Airport fuel crisis: Around 2000 passengers a day to face cancelled flights

Air New Zealand says around 2000 passengers a day will be hit by flight cancellations.
Air New Zealand says around 2000 passengers a day will be hit by flight cancellations. Photo credit: Getty

Air New Zealand says around 2000 passengers a day will be hit by flight cancellations after someone digging up a kauri log damaged the only jet fuel pipeline between Northland's Marsden Point refinery and Auckland Airport.

The damage, discovered on Thursday but revealed on Sunday, happened about 8km south of the refinery and will take up to two weeks to fix.

All airlines using Auckland Airport are now restricted on how much they can refuel.

Seven departures and seven arrivals were cancelled on Monday morning, according to the airport's website.

Air New Zealand says it can now only take 30 per cent of its normal fuel usage. It estimates around 2000 passengers a day will be affected. Seventeen flights have been cancelled for Monday and Tuesday.

Normally direct flights from the US and Asia will stop at airports in Australia and the Pacific to refuel.

"We are doing all we can to minimise the impact on our customers, however, we also need to take all prudent steps to conserve jet fuel supplies at Auckland Airport," said the airline's Captain David Morgan.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett told The AM Show something like this hasn't happened for 30 years.

"Judith [Collins] was contacted on Thursday that there was a small leak, and then by Saturday afternoon they were aware it was a bit more serious."

Ms Bennett said she understands there were reports into the pipeline's weakness conducted in 2005 and 2012, but she hasn't seen them.

"It's not owned by the Government. It is owned by the fuel companies, so it is their job to maintain it and to ensure there is a fuel supply."

The 170km pipeline was damaged by a digger driver hunting for swamp kauri at Ruakaka three months ago, the New Zealand Herald reports.

The pipeline remained intact but ruptured when pressure was increased on Thursday.

Refining NZ chief executive Sjoerd Post confirmed to Newshub a digger had scraped over it, and it will take 10 to 15 days to fix.

The pipeline also supplies petrol and diesel to Auckland, but motorists won't feel the impact over the next few days, Mobil Oil says.

Tankers will be able to truck petrol and diesel to the city from Marsden Point and ports, but the pipeline is Auckland Airport's sole source of jet fuel.

Ms Bennett said the jet fuel needs special care when transporting as it is highly flammable and can't travel in trucks.

"I think there are other alternatives…holding more fuel in Auckland in case there is something like this. They hold eight days' worth, I'm informed. Is there something in having other tanks so you're holding them longer? Ideally something like this doesn't happen," Ms Bennett said.

"We don't want this kind of disruption in any way, shape or form."