New petrol player in town

Waitomo Group managing director Jimmy Ormsby. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Waitomo Group managing director Jimmy Ormsby. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
A war of words has broken out between self-service petrol stations in Dunedin over prices.

Waitomo had planned to open its self-service stations yesterday morning — the former Mobils in Wharf and Cumberland Sts — but technical issues meant they were not able to fully open.

"It hasn’t been seamless but that’s what happens when you’re dealing with existing assets and trying to repurpose them," Waitomo Group managing director Jimmy Ormsby said.

Mr Ormsby made the trip down from Waikato for the opening and did pump some fuel for winners of a promotion the company carried out. They shut the pumps down to fix a problem with a submersible pump and leak-protection equipment.

Mr Ormsby said he hoped they would open fully today.

The company announced its entry into the Dunedin market with an opening price of $1.67 per litre of 91-octane petrol and Mr Ormsby said they would push other stations here to lower their prices.

Allied in Main South Rd and NPD Green Island each were offering $1.71 per litre, while McKeown in Orari St was at $1.75. Z’s Kaikorai Valley and Green Island stops were offering $1.75.

Mr Ormsby did say the $1.67 was an "offering" to put Waitomo on customers’ radars.

Not long after it arrived in the city, NPD doubted Waitomo was going to be competitive.

"We question their ability to bring or maintain genuinely competitive prices to the South Island when their North Island prices are significantly higher," NPD chief executive Barry Sheridan said.

"For example, NPD’s Dunedin self-serve prices are 18c a litre lower than Waitomo’s Wellington pump prices today."

He said NPD had consistently delivered lower prices everywhere it had opened a new site, such as in Green Island in 2019.

"Good on them," Mr Ormsby said in response.

"They’re trying to defend their position."

He said Waitomo had brought prices down in Wellington by about 30c a litre since arriving there more than a year ago.

NPD should not comment on prices in Wellington because it did not have stations there, he said.

"Until NPD can actually put some assets down ... it’s all talk and no walk."

He said a number of providers in the South Island had been charging high prices with little concern for the consumer.

"... and they are trying to dodge that now.

"They’re trying to say ‘look at us, we’re highly competitive now’.

"Yes they are, but in the past they haven’t been. What has changed? What has changed is we’ve entered the market in the South Island and Gull has entered the South Island and we’ve put their business model under pressure."

AA spokesman for petrol prices Mark Stockdale said NPD, McKeown, Allied and Waitomo were all taking a part of Dunedin to offer their "no-frills" prices.

"They’re no frills, they’re unmanned ... they pass that on to the customer.

"It means the other brands in that area ... they’re then forced to compete on price with this new unmanned outlet that’s down the road."

He described Waitomo’s offering as substantially low — 40c below some of the prices seen in Wellington at the same time.

Also, he said NPD was in a position to question Waitomo’s commitment to lower prices — it had changed the game in South Island petrol prices.

"We’ve certainly been surprised by the level of price-cutting that we’ve seen from NPD, when not so long ago they were charging the same price as the big brands.

"They’ve really gone hard into reverse gear and it’s perplexing, actually. We do wonder how long that will last. It’s good to see and let’s hope it continues."

Waitomo offered 85c per litre for diesel, 8c cheaper than at Allied and NPD.

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