End to NZ fuel crisis in sight as pipeline gets fixed

SYDNEY • A damaged pipeline that resulted in a fuel shortage across New Zealand and grounded hundreds of flights will be restarted today after repairs were completed, officials said.

"This is a significant milestone," Refining NZ, which owns the pipeline, said in a statement on its website yesterday, reported Reuters.

It said it expected to deliver jet fuel to Auckland Airport between tomorrow and Wednesday.

Repairs were completed late on Friday.

More than 100 flights were cancelled over the past three days, and many more delayed, disrupting the plans of thousands of travellers.

The government called in the military to help truck in supplies of fuel just days before a general election.

Damage to the 170km fuel line, which supplies almost all the fuel for Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, was believed to have been caused by a digger. A spokesman for Refining NZ told the New Zealand Herald that the damaged section had been cut out and replaced with a new section, which had been welded into place.

Refining NZ chief executive Sjoerd Post later told New Zealand media that full capacity would probably not return until early next year.

"We are in a start-up process... so we're going carefully," Mr Post told Fairfax Media, reported Reuters.

He said the pipeline would operate at 80 per cent capacity until further tests were carried out over the next few months.

The government set up a commission to oversee the response to the crisis amid concerns raised by tourism industry officials about the impact on New Zealand's international reputation.

Tourism has soared to record levels, with the country seeing more than 3.4 million visitors a year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 24, 2017, with the headline 'End to NZ fuel crisis in sight as pipeline gets fixed'. Subscribe