Highway robbery

A price difference of more than 20c/litre for unleaded between Leeton, left, and Narrandera, at 7am on Monday. Photos: Kim Woods.

Narrandera motorists are being slugged at the pump as local service stations fail to pass on the falling prices.

For unleaded fuel, the Caltex Gillenbah is the dearest at 121.9 cents/litre and Mobil Narrandera is at 115.9. This contrasts sharply with United Petroleum Leeton where motorists are benefitting from prices below $1/litre at 99.9 – prices not seen for many years.

According to FuelCheck, Shell Leeton has unleaded 91 at 100.7, Independent Darlington Point 104.9, and BP Coleambally 105.9. South West Fuel Barellan are charging 123.9 at the bowser while South West Fuel Ariah Park are 124.9 and the Independent at Griffith the dearest at 129 cents/litre.

While petrol prices have been plummeting, retailers have been slow to pass on a drop in wholesale diesel prices.

Mobil Narrandera is charging 117.9 cents/litre at the pump for diesel while the Caltex Gillenbah is 121.9, Coles Express Narrandera at 123.9 and United Leeton on 117.9. The dearest in the region is Independent Darlington Point (Carrington Street) at 155.9 cents/litre. United Petroleum Leeton has E10 at 97.9 cents/litre compared to Coles Express Narrandera at 119.9, well over the state average of 95.7 cents according to Fuel Check. Prices ranged across NSW from 63.9 to a high of 129.9.

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum the NSW regional average for diesel is 125.3 cents/litre.

NRMA spokesperson Bridget Ahern told the Argus it had been many years since fuel dropped below the $1/litre mark in regional areas.

Ms Ahern said it was welcome news amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

“Regional areas often don’t see those price drops due to a lack of competition in the market,” she said. “Prices are low exactly when it is needed most as people are being stood down.

“The reason why we have been experiencing low prices is the OPEC nations producing oil were at loggerheads over oil production and then the world went into lockdown, with essentially no planes in the sky and cars on the road.

“There was more oil in the system than people were using so it is a perfect storm for low world oil prices.”

Ms Ahern said the wholesale price of unleaded petrol in regional areas of 99c/litre enabled retailers to make a profit.

“To have those retailing unleaded fuel at around 1.26c/litre is completely unacceptable,” she said. “Chances are the people offering petrol for the more expensive price shouldn’t be and the best thing people can do is exercise consumer rights. Fill up where it is cheaper to send a message to those more expensive places that it is not acceptable.”

Ms Ahern described unleaded prices over 126 cents/litre as “highway robbery”.

“They should not be charging those prices as we know they are buying it for considerably less.”

She urged consumers not to stockpile fuel while it was cheap due to its short shelf life.

“The good news is the lower prices will last – we are not seeing any indication the prices will go up any time soon. There is so much oil on the market it will stay quite low for the coming weeks and months.”

Ms Ahern said lower diesel prices were good news for agricultural producers dealing with drought and COVID-19.

“If they can get relief at the bowser, that is very good news.”

Mahoney’s Coach Service principal Col Mahoney believes Narrandera residents are being “ripped off big time”.

“We are not running any buses due to COVID and fuel has come down, so it is very annoying,” he said. “It is 30 cents too dear here – why are we paying 30-40 cents more than the city? We are being ripped off as we always are in the country with fuel.”

When operating at full capacity, fuel is the biggest cost for the bus and coach company. With 10 vehicles sitting at the depot, four school bus runs are still operating.

“Most weeks we have five to six vehicles filling up at Caltex and our fuel bill is quite large,” Mr Mahoney said. “Coaches only do 3km/litre – one of them holds 800 litres costing over $1000. A full tank will last 2500km.

“They talk about price cycles in the city but there are no cycles in the country – we take what we get.

“Nobody wants to do anything to help the people in the country – only petrol seems to be coming down the most but diesel has hardly moved.

“I would like someone to stand up and explain to us why we are paying as much as we are when the service station’s profit margins are exorbitant.”

Mr Mahoney said businesses with fuel cards were often restricted and unable to exercise their consumer right to fill up elsewhere.

“It is having the same effect on the trucking and farming industry,” he said. “Six months ago diesel was over $1.50/litre and last time I filled up it was $1.36 but in the city motorists can buy it for less than $1.”

Mr Mahoney said the through traffic of the highways meant local service stations do not have to discount fuel to attract business.

“We have historic lows in oil prices but not historic lows at the bowser,” he said.

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