SYDNEY, Sept 24 (Reuters) - A damaged pipeline that resulted in a fuel shortage across New Zealand and grounded hundreds of flights was restarted on Sunday after repairs were completed, officials said.
Jet fuel from the Marsden Point Oil Refinery began to arrive at Auckland’s Wiri Oil Terminal on Sunday morning, and is expected to reach Auckland Airport by Tuesday, Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins said.
“Airlines are continuing to operate their networks on the 50 percent fuel allocation from Auckland, with increasing stability and minimal disruption to passengers,” Collins said in a statement. “The number of flight cancellations has been steadily decreasing.”
Five international flights were canceled on Saturday as the country’s army trucked fuel to Auckland airport and New Zealanders went to the polls for a general election. Two more international flights are expected to be canceled on Sunday.
The New Zealand government set up a commission to oversee the response to the crisis just days before Saturday’s poll, which has left the ruling National Party and opposition Labour Party in a position of having to lobby the nationalist New Zealand First party to form a coalition government.
Tourism industry officials have expressed concern about the impact on the international reputation of the South Pacific island nation, which has been experiencing record levels of tourism.
More than 100 flights were canceled over the past several days and many more delayed, disrupting the plans of thousands of travelers.
Damage to the 170-km (105-mile) fuel line, which supplies almost all of the fuel for Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, was believed to have been caused by a digger. Repairs were completed late on Friday.
New Zealand Refining Co Ltd Chief Executive Sjoerd Post told media on Saturday that full capacity would probably not return until early next year. Post said the pipeline would operate at 80 per cent capacity until further tests were carried out over the next few months. (Reporting by Benjamin Cooper; Editing by Jane Wardell and Paul Simao)