The head of independent fuel company Gull New Zealand has pushed back against the Prime Minister's accusation that the industry is fleecing motorists, saying it takes a kicking from politicians from time to time but needs to be able to make a profit.
Jacinda Ardern says she's "hugely concerned" by rising fuel prices across the country and she believes consumers are being "fleeced".
She says her Government is now taking steps to look into how and why petrol prices have risen so quickly, jumping by an average of 39 cents between the end of October last year and September 28 this year.
The Government is rushing through changes to the Commerce Act to give the Commerce Commission stronger powers, including the ability to force companies to provide commercially-sensitive information for studies on market competition.
Asked today by 1 NEWS if oil companies are fleecing motorists, Gull New Zealand general manager David Bodger said he's been in the oil industry for a fair while "and we take a kicking from the politicians from time to time. It's all part of the day job".
Pressed on whether the PM's statement is fair and right, Mr Bodger said, "Ah well, the oil companies need to be able to make a profit".
He pointed out that in 2008 the oil industry in New Zealand was struggling.
"Several companies weren't making profits at that point in time and that would have led to non-investment in the industry and that wouldn't have been good for New Zealand incorporated."
In making the fleecing accusation, Ms Ardern criticised importer margins.
Mr Bodger responded: "If you look at our retail prices which is the prime determinate in our margins, ours are significantly lower than many of our opposition. And I think the real beef that's out there with the public at the moment is that there's different pricing in different areas across New Zealand for ostensibly the same product."
He was asked if different pricing means fleecing, or that companies like Gull don't have the cost of shipping petrol south like other companies.
"It's the cost of the infrastructure really to service the South Island is the key thing that has stopped us going south there. But there are different markets and there are different prices in those markets and people are rightly asking those questions," he replied.
Asked would Gull's prices have to go up to fund infrastructure in the South Island, Mr Bodger said: "Well I guess that's part of the reason we've made the decision to not go to the South Island at the moment because our brand means value to the motorist. And we wouldn't open in the South Island if it didn't mean good value for the motorist."
Ms Ardern today told TVNZ 1's Breakfast she believes one of the main issues is competition.
"If you look at Wellington, one of the biggest issues they have there is just competition. They don't have Gull - let's speak frankly," she said.
"And the South Island - similar issues around being able to access fuel ... so one of the questions that's being raised is what can we do to enhance competition?"