Cyclone Gabrielle: Fuel companies in Hawke's Bay plead for coordination to help motorists

By Phil Pennington RNZ

Many petrol stations are still closed in the face of growing demand from frustrated motorists and others needing fuel in cyclone-struck regions.

There is progress in getting crucial power on to reopen some, and one gas chain says the government only has to ask and it can dispense fuel straight off the tanker.

Napier has limited supplies of power and petrol, while just a short drive away Hastings has plenty of both.

The road between the two cities is open but just for emergency vehicles and essential travel.

In Napier itself, the only service station getting power from the network, a Caltex, lost that on Thursday afternoon after a hectic day on the forecourt.

Lines company Unison thought it would have power back on Friday.

Gull's retail business manager Mike Williamson said its only station in Napier on Taradale Road has no power to run its pumps, and on Thursday night they made the call not to wait for mains power to come back on.

"We understand that it's going to be about two weeks until power is restored so we are sending a generator down from Auckland to get the site up and running."

That means it should be back and pumping on Friday, and he says they have plenty of fuel in the underground tanks.

The other four fuel chains RNZ talked to also had plenty of fuel.

Waitomo group's Bayview station is flooded and Severn Street, also in Napier, has no power.

However, Waitomo had reopened six of the 10 stations closed across all regions, including in Taupō.

Waitomo managing director Jimmy Ormsby said they could get Severn Street going with a generator if instructed to by the government's fuel coordinating body.

"If we were given a direction 'hey, we need you to get that open', you know, we would obviously make as much effort as we could to get that open," he said.

He said they could also dispense fuel straight off a tanker if need be.

"If someone said to me 'can you get a tanker truck down here, with full of fuel, and dispense fuel off it' we could do that and we could do it safely but, you know, we're waiting to be instructed what to do."

Gasoline Alley's station at Pakowhai near Taradale flooded so badly its owners had to be rescued.

Its Mahora station near Hastings is also not running. Neither is Wairoa, and general manager Nahid Ali had heard nothing late yesterday from its Te Karaka site inland from Gisborne.

It was slightly better news on the isolated East Coast.

"Tolaga Bay service station was opened this morning," said Ali. "I'm not quite sure whether it was through power or through the generators. It's very good news, you know, at least up around the coast areas we have got Tolaga Bay that can service the area."

That depends on bridges and roads being open.

Allied Petroleum general manager Alastair Tennent said none of its dozen unmanned stations were running yet in the two regions, including its fuel stop in Napier. Regardless, it would be joining the police-escorted convoy that made its first trip from Ōpōtiki to Gisborne yesterday.

"We are going to be part of the convoy with our Gisborne trucks coming out, actually, to refuel at Mount Maunganui and coming back in," Tennent said.

Allied runs the station up the coast at Ruatoria but it has no power and Tennent said he had no way of finding out just what was going on there.

In Gisborne, Gull has power. Williamson said they installed satellite internet yesterday afternoon, to communicate with the site.

"As we speak it's been operational for about one hour."

It was "understandably" busy, he said.

Z Energy said its sites in Hastings are open, but its sites in Napier - at Kennedy Road, Tamatea and Taradale - had power outages and Wairoa was closed with technical problems.

RNZ asked the fuel coordination agency now operating as part of the national emergency response to detail the plan for getting fuel to people. It has yet to respond.

National Emergency Management Agency advice:

  • Put safety first. Don't take any chances. Act quickly if you see rising water. Floods and flash floods can happen quickly. If you see rising water do not wait for official warnings. Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwater.
  • Do not try to walk, play, swim, or drive in floodwater: even water just 15 centimetres deep can sweep you off your feet, and half a metre of water will carry away most vehicles.
  • If you have evacuated, please stay where you are until you are given the all-clear to go home.
  • If you don't need to evacuate, support those who do by staying home, staying off roads and staying safe.
  • If you are not able to contact your whānau in the heavily affected areas go to Police 105 website and complete the inquiry form or phone 105 and remember to update if you reconnect through other means.
  • Throw away food and drinking water that has come into contact with floodwater as it is often contaminated and can make you sick.
  • If you are without power eat the food from your fridge first, then your freezer. Then eat the food in the cupboard or your emergency kit.
  • People should stay up to date with the forecasts from MetService and continue to follow the advice of civil defence and emergency services.
  • A National State of Emergency is in place for an initial period of seven days and applies to regions that have declared a local State of Emergency.