New law aimed at bringing down petrol prices passes first hurdle in Parliament

Proposed new rules to promote fuel industry competition to lower petrol prices passed its first hurdle in Parliament today. 

File image of a man pumping petrol.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods said if passed, the rules would bring in "a suite of measures to boost competition in the wholesale fuel market and the benefit will flow through to the prices motorists pay at the pump". 

She said it was a priority to get it passed into law before the election. 

"Fuel prices are a major bugbear for consumers and we make no excuse for acting with speed to allow competition to flourish," she said. 

It comes as the increase to fuel excise sees motorists charged an extra four cents per litre from today. The Ministry of Transport yesterday said the increase could cost the average one-vehicle family an extra $35 to $40 per year, or 67 to 76 cents per week.

National's Jonathan Young told Parliament yesterday National would support the bill in its first reading to get feedback on the bill. 

Mr Young called the timing of the bill "marvellous" as it would come the same day as the excise increase. 

"Here's the Government putting through legislation which they think is going to bring the price of petrol down in time.

"Competition is alive and well. I think what's happened is that this Government has seen an opportunity to charge out there on behalf of the consumer, time is running out, and an election is coming near, the price of petrol is going up tomorrow, and here we are in the House today and they're beating their breast," he said. 

Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi said changes in the bill "will increase competition in the wholesale market and, over time, lead to lower fuel prices for consumers". 

A year-long study by the Commerce Commission found New Zealanders are paying too much for petrol. 

It found the difference in regional prices reflected the level of local competition, discount schemes avoided direct competition and premium petrol prices have increased faster than regular prices.

The new proposed rules include a requirement for premium fuel to be displayed, for contracts between wholesale suppliers and customers to be "fair and support competition" and for wholesale pricing regimes to be "more transparent". 

The Commission's draft report was released in August 2019, finding a range of issues within the industry that were pushing up prices for consumers.