The Shocking Truth About The Ruptured Jet Fuel Pipeline Debacle

September 19, 2017
2 mins read

Is it a jet plane? Is it an ruptured oil pipeline? No, it’s PAT PILCHER venting about another avoidable Auckland-centric crisis.


Planes are grounded and travellers are stranded. Tales of woe resound through all media portals. There’s a chronic shortage of jet fuel. Petrol stations are running out of premium grade.

Sounds like something you’d expect from a failed state like Zimbabwe, right? Wrong. It’s happening here in good old Aotearoa, and now it appears that all the wrong questions are being asked as the media frenzy gains intensity.

The cause of this mess? A single pipeline connecting Marsden Point Oil Refinery to Auckland Airport is leaking. Speculation has it that Auckland Airport’s sole jet fuel line got damaged by a digger digging for old, submerged kauri logs.

Then things took a bizarre turn. The residents nearby the scene of the crime said that the land the leaking pipe is on was only used for grazing. One local swore he’s never seen any diggers there.

If grazing cows weren’t upping the amount of iron in their diet by eating the pipe, then what happened? Did a wild digger sneak into the paddock to grab a sly drink of petrol? Or could it be that the pipe was so rusted that it started to leak as pennies got pinched?

So, why the conflicting stories?

A distinct possibility is that this is a case of shitty planning and poor maintenance. The frustrating thing is that – whatever the specific cause – the chaos caused by this leaky pipe was so avoidable.

Data network cabling gets laid with a view to diversity. This sees two network connections used to connect the business. Both connections come from opposite and unrelated directions.

The upshot is that accidental ‘damage to one cable won’t take out critical network connectivity.’ You’d think that the same logic should apply to the gas pipeline, right? This isn’t rocket science. Isn’t New Zealand’s biggest international airport a mission-critical asset?

The media response is telling. One media outlet’s headlines blared that NZ is now cut off from the world. I guess that sub-editor didn’t know that there are three other international airports? Then there’s also that new-fangled internet thingamajig too.

Isn’t it amazing how if Auckland has (yet another) infrastructure issue, New Zealand is automatically cut off from the world? Could it be that our media is too Auckland-centric?

Then there’s the finger pointing. It’s pointless, and a lot like two fleas on a dogs back arguing over who owns the dog. Why aren’t smarter questions should be being asked?

That this is happening as the general election nears makes for a toxic mix. Finger pointing has seen National supporters taking aim at Labour, which in turn fired off accusations at National. Both sides have done their share of grandstanding on the issue. It isn’t helpful.

According to Stuff, the risks of a single pipeline being the sole fuel source for Auckland Airport is something both political parties have known about since 2005. Both parties did nothing and here we are.

I would like to know why Auckland airport has remained reliant on a single pipeline for so long. Were there ever any plans to build a more diversified fuel transport network? Why does this sort of short sighted idiocy keep happening in New Zealand?

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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