Petrol prices surge to $1.83 a litre
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2010

Petrol prices have hit more than $1.80 a litre for the first time in 18 months, just as thousands of people around the country decided to ditch their cars and walk to work for a day.

BP and Caltex yesterday raised prices 5c a litre the second increase in a week and boosting the price of 91 unleaded to $1.83 a litre.

Shell and Mobil raised their prices 3c a litre yesterday afternoon.

OMFinancial oil analyst Nigel Brunel dampened fears that prices would soar to the highs of July 2008, when the price of a litre of 91 unleaded reached $2.18.

He said higher prices were the result of a weaker New Zealand dollar against the United States currency and oil prices reaching US$80 a barrel.

"I don't see [petrol prices] going up hugely from here," Brunel said.

AA Petrolwatch spokesman Mark Stockdale said the increase by BP and Caltex of 10c a litre in less than a week was "more than usual", but he was heartened by other companies not matching the rise.

"Maybe that will put pressure on the other oil companies."

The price jitters emerged during a national Walk2Work day in which thousands of people, including more than 200 in Christchurch, left their cars at home and took advantage of snacks and prizes being given out in 20 cities and towns.

Living Streets Aotearoa Canterbury co-convener Chrys Horn said it was appropriate that petrol prices should rise on the same day.

"Perhaps it's good. It might encourage more people to do it [walk to work]."

The Green Party used the price rise to attack the Government's budgeted $10.7 billion spending on state highways over the next decade, rather than alternatives like light rail and bus lanes.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the Government invested considerable sums in public transport, as well as roading, " but we do believe strongly that people are not likely to sacrifice their personal mobility to the extent some would have us believe". Improving fuel technology was likely to have a greater impact, he said.

Labour's transport spokesman, Darren Hughes, said the Government's plan to raise GST on top of soaring petrol prices would cause hardship.

From here.