Govt workers told to cancel air travel

An urgent instruction has gone out to government departments ordering staff to cancel non-essential air travel as the fuel crisis continues to bite.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has issued the directive across the public service, meaning the ruptured fuel line near the Marsden Pt oil refinery is now affecting how government does its work.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment chief executive Carolyn Tremain confirmed a halt on air travel.

"As part of the Government response to the fuel pipeline disruption, public servants are being asked to defer non-essential air travel in and out of Auckland.

"With the pressure on aviation fuel supplies, it is prudent the public sector does what it can to help the airlines and the fuel suppliers meet the challenges of the situation."

Ministry of Health executive director Jill Bond said focus had gone on air travel.

"We are working with our travel provider to identify which flights are still operating to Auckland and we are also encouraging staff to consider alternative arrangements where possible."

The fuel-pipe rupture is believed to have been caused by a digger working some months ago in farmland near Ruakaka.

Claw marks from a digger blade were found on the pipeline when it ruptured on Thursday when pressure in the pipe was increased to pump aviation fuel to Auckland.

The fuel pipeline is a critical link for getting fuel to Auckland and especially for Auckland Airport because there is no other way to transport jet fuel from the refinery south of Whangarei.

It has caused chaos at Auckland Airport, as flights have been cancelled and airlines are having to ration the amount of gas they can access.

It has also seen a handful of petrol stations in Auckland close some pumps selling 95 petrol, although fuel companies say supply is not yet an issue.

It has come in the final week of the election campaign and seen the Government promise to throw all it can to help ease the pressure and get fuel to where is needed.

That has included government departments being told to review their travel plans.

The Prime Minister's department told the Herald the order is part of its "Odesc" response to the fuel crisis.

Odesc, or the Officials' Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination, is a high-powered group of public service leaders who gather at times of national crisis to make sure government response is coordinated and rapid.

Generally, it is led by department chief executive Andrew Kibblewhite but the chief executive of government department responding to the particular crisis generally takes over - in this case Tremain is chairwoman, because Mbie is leading the response to it.

The department spokeswoman said Odesc was convened "in terms of the national security system".

It met over the weekend as the impact of the fuel rupture became apparent.

The committee also convened to coordinate government crisis response after the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, for security for the Cricket World Cup, the 1080 contamination threat to milkpowder and the ebola outbreak in 2014.

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