I have added two more graphs to our transport stats collection showing the change in petrol prices over time. The data for both comes from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment from their weeklyquarterly numbers. The quarterly numbers include the inflation adjusted figures which is very handy for comparing them over a long period of time and shows that in real terms, we still haven’t reached the peaks of the 80’s yet.

13 - Jan Weekly Breakdown

13 - Jan Quarterly

Edit: updated the first graph to add in a break down of the fuel prices.

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  1. Is there any chance of getting an estimate/actual number for the total taxes paid on petrol in real numbers added to the graph for some recent prices and if possible for a few key historical numbers?
    Such as the peaks in ’85, 2006, 2008 etc.

    Be interested to see how much of the current trend is driven by underlying tax changes as opposed to actual petrol cost increases.

    Because, if its tax fiddling currently driving up the prices, then that means that the cost hikes are yet to really flow into prices, which is what we all suspect, but knowing the total tax component would show this.
    [or conversely, knowing the cost, sans taxes would allow you to deduce the tax components]

    I know the peaks around ’85 were Lange Labour Govt related devaluation/GST@10%? , blip in 91 – 1st Gulf war , 2001 – 9/11, 2006/7 not sure and 2008 GFC, 2011 – GST hike?

    I suspect collectively Governments over the years have fiddled the petrol tax take to smooth over price drops to cover fiscal shortfalls elsewhere and have taken to reducing tax takes to hide petrol cost price rises or to feather the ACC accounts at other times – all of which is distortionary as it masks the true market signals of underlying rising prices..

    Be interesting to see, as some suspect, that the biggest price fiddlers/distortioners here are the supposed “free markets are always best” governments.

      1. As per my comment below Matt, there’s also the EDF which has long-term tax info. I can send you the table I made up for my thesis if you’re interested? Although that’s annual rather than quarterly.

    1. Tax would have very little to do with the current trend – page 146 of the MBIE’s 2012 Energy Data File has a good table on when petrol tax changes took place. I did some tweaking on the figures to put them into real terms when I was doing my thesis, and they haven’t moved much in real terms over the last decade or so IIRC.

      1. Think of it like a PT Mode share chart – I just want to see the various “modes” that make up the petrol price in a apples v apples form for once.

        You may be right that the Tax “mode share” part of the Petrol price hasn’t changed much recently – which if so is good as it lets the underlying market signals shine through, unlike 20 or so years ago, when it was hidden which ever way it could be.

      2. The file on the second link has prices broken down by the various components in both real and nominal terms quarterly back to 1983 as well as the CPI for each quarter. It also has a tab with a breakdown of the taxes by quarter including when each one started and changed or ended and that goes back to 1974.

  2. Interesting to see the residential power price graph on that website. Those power sector reforms to make power more competitive surely have worked – not! Residential power users are getting…well…find the word to fit :-). Industrial users are doing pretty good though.

  3. True story: when I was a kid, I thought 91 octane petrol was called that because it cost 91 cents a litre. Or 90.9 cents, with our petrol station pricing. I must have come to this conclusion in the mid-90s, and it was a while before I found out that I was wrong.

    1. Actually, I’m pretty sure 96 octane also cost 95.9 cents around this time, which is probably another reason why I thought the name came from the price.

      1. Yeah, same here. Those were pretty common prices during the 90s.

        I also remember having my first cars in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and petrol seeming wonderfully cheap. I’d fill up my small car and drive for several hours just to see a young lady. And then drive home on the same day. That seems less likely now – I’d probably fly 😉

  4. Is there a way to show also the price of crude oil on the world market? I only wonder because I have often heard spokespeople for the oil companies say (when there has been a notable upward spike in petrol price) that their hands are tied and they regrettably have to raise local prices in response to international oil markets.

    In particular it would be interesting to see if local pump prices go down as swiftly as they rise in response to global crude oil fluctuations.

    I’ve listened to many a conversation in many a smoko room where it has been alleged that pump prices stay high longer than they really need to. Can this assertion be shown to be true or just conspiracy theory nonsense?

    1. Its in the weekly data including the exchange rate for that week. The ministry investigated it a while back and while I haven’t looked recently, I’m pretty sure they found there was no evidence to that claim.

  5. This helps me understand why public transport patronage fell thru’ much of the 1990’s. Petrol was extraordinarily cheap (in real terms).

    Remember paying $0.799 /ℓ at one stage in 1998.

    1. In Auckland the then ARA forced the Bus ticket prices through the roof and cut services to balance its budget,
      The cuts especially out of peak times in the early ’90s were pretty severe – like no Sunday bus services for awhile there as I recall).

      As I’ve elsewhere on this blog – its taken Bus mode share 25 years and its only now getting back to levels of mode share that it had in the late ’80s!
      Shows you how penny pinching decisions around PT can have vast long reaching consequences for decades.

  6. The last time I drove home for Christmas in the South Island (around 5-6 years ago), I remember filling up in Tekapo and freaking out at paying $1.20 a litre 🙂

  7. Years ago I did some long-forgotten research on the use made of public transport for the journey to work, comparing the 1986 and the 1991 census results. Over those five years the use made of public transport had gone through the floor. While the sharp fall in real petrol prices was a factor, in those five years we had also seen the arrival of something known as the “Jap import”, which made a huge dent in the cost of motoring by making it possible to get decent-quality cars at reasonable prices. Up to that point, New Zealand had been known (in Australia) as the “land where Morrie Minors went to die”.

    At the time, this had one genuinely positive side-effect – cheaper motoring meant a measurable fall in motorcycling, with measurable improvements in the road safety statistics.

    1. And of course, the sudden influx of used cars (and the rapid increase of cars on the road) coincides with the drop in cycling numbers in NZ.

    2. That was then followed by National deregulating public transport operation, forcing councils to give up their bus services and introducing the rigours of the market. We know how that one’s played out.

  8. Matt – sorry, a bit off topic …
    I was working in what became Transit New Zealand at the time of public transport deregulation. The problem is that we ended up using the Britain-outside-London approach, which works OK if nearly everything is commercial (as in Edinburgh, or long-distance bus services in New Zealand), or if nearly everything is tendered (eg. Christchurch AFAIK). Where it does not work well is if you have a mix of commercial and tendered services, as in many British cities, and Auckland and Wellington. Also, at the time (1991), central government support for public transport was cut very sharply, and this didn’t help the situation either.

    If the public money was there, even the current bus model could be made to work.

  9. What I always hated about gas prices and how companies put their prices up in 2008, when oil peaked in 2008 and then post recession petrol prices dropped.
    Then gas prices went up again, to their 2008 levels, and companies raised their prices up again, and no one seemed to notice……

  10. What is the total revenue take on taxes & levies?
    All i know is if the Greens were running the country we’d be in the sht! – no money for any funding period.

  11. Here is the technological/physical reason that transitioning away from fossil fuel use in a car based transport system is not an easy matter:

    Still waiting for that breakthrough; very very smart people with lots and lots of money have been trying for multiple decades to crack this one. Don’t bet on a tech answer coming soon if you want to keep this highly dispersed auto-dependent living pattern sailing along as it is.

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