Last year, Z Energy bought Caltex New Zealand’s network of petrol stations from global oil giant Chevron. That was a pretty big deal (almost $800 million, in fact).

Just before Christmas 2016, another deal was announced. Caltex Australia* has bought the Gull New Zealand network of petrol stations (and associated operations). With a price of $340 million, it’s not as big as the Z Energy/ Caltex New Zealand deal, but still big numbers.

Caltex Australia was separate from Caltex New Zealand, although they obviously shared the same branding, and had some common ownership until recently. Caltex Australia is listed on the Australian stock exchange, and was half-owned by Chevron until 2015. Chevron have now sold out completely.

The ol’ Power Chief.

The Gull transaction is subject to Overseas Investment Office approval, which probably isn’t much of a barrier. You’ve just got one foreign-controlled company replacing another.

The press release is here:

This acquisition delivers on Caltex [Australia’s] strategic plan as it optimises Caltex’s infrastructure position, builds trading and shipping capability, grows the supply base and enhances Caltex’s retail fuel offering through low risk entry into a new market.

Gull has been successfully operating in the New Zealand fuel market since 1998 and is operationally positioned as a challenger brand. It has 77 retail sites in total, including 55 controlled retail sites (around one-third of sites unmanned) and 22 supply sites. It also provides fuel to numerous commercial (B2B) customers.

Gull sells around 300ML of transport fuel (petrol and diesel) representing around 5% of the New Zealand market. The Mount Maunganui terminal is the largest facility of its type in New Zealand with total storage of approximately 90ML. Whilst its retail network is concentrated in the northern half of the North Island of New Zealand, Gull is well placed to profitably grow via new to industry and/or new supply site expansions. As part of the transaction, Caltex will be retaining Gull’s Brand, management and employees.

Gull’s branding and position is based on selling petrol cheaper than everyone else, so presumably the new owners will keep that going.

In other news, things are also changing across the Tasman. Woolworths Australia, the company which owns Countdown supermarkets in NZ, is selling its 500+ petrol stations to BP Australia. The two companies have signed a “Strategic Partnership” to do fuel discounts together for the next 10 years – i.e. people shopping at Woolworths supermarkets in Australia will get the 4 cents off a litre at BP stations.

Which is to say, supermarket fuel dockets are likely to continue for another 10 years or so, at least in Australia. They’ve been in both NZ and Australia for 10 years already (see an earlier post on them here), and look set to stick around.

I’ve noticed things getting quite messy in the last year, in terms of different prices, vouchers and so on. At least twice, I’ve gone into a Mobil with a voucher to use, and been told that they’ve got a 10 cents off special running that day, so I don’t need the voucher. Then there’s AA Smartfuel, which works at Caltex and BP, and changes to which supermarket brand gives discounts at which petrol station brand.

Slightly blurry cellphone photo, but this is another one of those 10 cents off things. The price ‘for today’ is actually 192.9. To realise this, you apparently have to be driving past, looking at the headline price, then reading the other sign and its small print, and mentally confirming that there are no additional hoops to jump through. But why not just put 192.9 on the electronic sign?

There’s also more price variation in different parts of the city and country. So when you’re driving around, try to avoid being taken for a ride (zing!).

Econ 101 says it’s good to see that price variation – it’s a sign of competition and is supposedly good for overall “utility”. Drivers who are less price sensitive, or oblivious to the variations,  end up paying more, and those who are more price sensitive don’t pay as much. But I’m sure you’d rather have the money in your own pocket. Even if you can’t be bothered carrying around vouchers (or keeping a Smartfuel card in your wallet), try to keep an eye out for where the petrol’s cheaper.

I did a road trip down the West Coast in early January – filled up in Greymouth, and tried to leave the next big fill-up to Wanaka. I figured the petrol in Wanaka would be cheaper than in the tiny village of Fox Glacier. Three pretty good reasons: Wanaka’s a bigger town, it’s got two petrol stations, and it’s less isolated. So I was quite surprised when the petrol price in Wanaka turned out to be higher than Fox Glacier (3 cents I think).

Then Queenstown was about 8 cents a litre less than Wanaka, and still about 8 cents more expensive than Auckland (again, from memory). Unsurprisingly, the prices tend to be much lower in the big cities and places on major highways – small, isolated towns have higher prices.

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  1. Cheapest fuel you will consistently buy is from Waitomo stations. New one recently on Manukau Road just before Newmarket, Auckland. Around 25.0 cents litre less than others central Auckland. Diesel just over a dollar. 91 was 1.75. There’s another one in Karaka.

    1. I think more realistically 12-15c/l cheaper, but definitely consistently so. Maybe pay-at-the pump helps, eg Pak’nSave pay-at-the-pump is also generally cheaper, more so with a voucher. But strangely not at Gull. At Waitomo Manukau Rd you can then buy a Rub-a-Dub carwash with your savings. Win-win! Z seems to have lost the plot both with pricing and their bizarre discount system, as noted in the post.

  2. Petrol in Hastings is consistently about 20c cheaper (per litre) than in Wellington, a fact I find extraordinary. $1.74 in Hastings at Christmas (without any vouchers being waved) at all the stations in town, vs about $2.08 at present in Z in Taranaki St last week.

    Even in Eketahuna, which is officially the middle of nowhere, petrol is cheaper than in Wellington, which is extraordinary, seeing as Wellington has a port where the petrol gets shipped directly to, and then taken by truck and trailer up to Eketahuna. Madness.

    But down here, that is because of Gull and Alliance stations in the smaller provinces, and the fact they are actively kept out of the captive market in Wellington which is only served by the big boys.

    1. “Gull services its 53 North Island petrol stations out of its import terminal in Mt Maunganui, but says trucking fuel beyond Masterton – its southernmost station – is uneconomic. It has sought to wholesale fuel from the likes of Z Energy, Caltex, Mobil and BP, which have fuel terminals at ports around the country”… One can only guess why the wholesale deal didn’t go ahead.


    2. Its probably just the price of land and the cost of leases, plus maybe labour cost differences.

      A plot of land for a a gas station on the edge of central wellington could be literally 100 times the price of the same plot on the edge of ekatahuna.

  3. Who’s paying for these petrol subsidies? As an inner city dwelller without the need for a car, I’d rather have cheaper groceries than a useless petrol discount voucher.

    1. I love waiting for 10 minutes while the self checkout machines in the New World Metro on Queen Street sprew out reams of paper. Usually have to clear away a pile of them.

    2. it irritates me no end, and ‘free’ parking at prime realestate supermarkets. us car free apartment dwellers are paying for motorists parking in our groceries.

  4. Seems very odd that Caltex NZ sell out, and then Caltex Oz buy in – very disappointed that Gull has been sold though, for reasons outlined in my comments above.

    I read a book on the life of Rockefeller a couple of years back – and about his starting of the Standard Oil company in about 1870, and boy did it grow! Controlled almost 95% of the world’s petrol in 1904. The ultimate monopoly.

    Eventually got split into the 34 different sub companies, including Texaco, Mobil, Caltex, Exxon, Socony, Chevron etc. There is a reason why Trump has got Tillerson (ex-exxon) to be the “Secretary of State” – not because he is good at talking to other countries and being an international statesman, but because he knows everyone who is anyone in the oil business, and he can push more oil deals the way that the USA wants it. Hugely tied up with Putin as Russia only really has one thing to see – raw natural products under the ground. Seriously, in the USA, oil IS politics. Roll on the age when it is not!

  5. There’s an app for that… Gaspy on android and iphone – it doesn’t include discounts. Crowdsourcing data. Cheapest price today is $1.719 at Mobil Ti Rakau Drive. In regards to discounts and loyalty on petrol I detest it wholeheartedly. Guess who’s paying for it one way or another… I had a few runs when I filled up $39.50 of gas only to be told that I need $40.00, gone back to dribble another $0.20 to no avail. There is so much wrong with these discounts, that I think that the petrol discounts based on loyalty should be simply illegal. Bring on electric cars. Oh but not the stupid priority on HOV lanes for EVs – that’s not cool.

    1. More info on the EV trial – which I strongly oppose:

      What is the Auckland Electric Vehicle Trial Bylaw?
      The Auckland Electric Vehicle Trial Bylaw will enable electric vehicles access to six specific priority bypass lanes, controlled by the Transport Agency, for a set period. This trial will help inform the design and roll out of long term electric vehicle access to special vehicle lanes, and run for 14 days between 6 and 20 March 2017.

    2. Like you I’m not a fan of the discount vouchers, however I don’t see why they should be made to be illegal. Any private enterprise should be allowed to offer whatever incentives/rewards it wants, anything else is unnecessary government regulation.

    1. It was Caltex Australia who bought Gull, not Caltex New Zealand which was recently bought by Z Energy. So it’s not immediately clear whether prices would change, and if so whether they’d rise or fall.

      1. John – and just who would have what brand? Price will, inevitably, go up. But I’m trying to figure out what is behind it. Why are NZ branches of international oil giants (Shell, Caltex, others?) keen to drop NZ, and seeing as they are doing so – what on earth would someone else want to buy into the same market for?

        AFAIK, there is bugger all money in the actual selling of petrol – there is only a margin of a few cents – there’s more money to be made in the selling of the inevitable Coke and Peanut Slab that goes with each purchase. But if Caltex NZ has sold its stores to Z, then presumably they will all be rebranded as Z. Then the Gull stations which are now Caltex Oz, are they going to keep their Gull branding, or change over to Caltex? If they keep the Gull brand, there is no loyalty feedback to Caltex, so why would they do it? But if they keep the Caltex brand, why would the NZ branch have sold its stores off anyway? Its all f****d up !

        1. Something similar happened with the supermarkets 15 odd years ago, they ended up rationalising to two companies and three brands. Woolworths NZ was independent from Woolworths overseas, and was bought up by Progressive Enterprises. Progressive was then bought by Woolworths Australia a few years later, which then decided to go drop the Woolworths brand in NZ, going with Countdown instead.

          1. Sure the margin on fuel is, but labour costs have increased (almost all gas station employees were on minimum wage), land rent has increased significantly, and I’m sure a bunch of other costs have too. The margin on fuel maybe 10c a litre but what happens when you have to pay the other costs you have to sell a lot of coffees to make a profit.

  6. Of interest on pricing. BP and Mobil both offer a high octane 98 although not at all stations. Based on my background with vehicles I can tell the difference of this fuel over lower octanes on low powered vehicles and it is notable both with power and economy and sustained use keeps those inlet ports and valves immaculate, I can vouch for that (does not apply to direct injection models such as the VE/VF Holdens). Although BP’s 91 octane is priced competitively it’s 98 is an absolute rip off, marked up by 30 cents plus a litre and that is consistent at all sites I have seen in Auckland and I have seen it as high as 39 cents higher. Of course this is never shown on the big public displays. It in effect kills off what AA and BP are trying to do with loyalty schemes because once you’ve clicked as to the price gouging you avoid BP. Z and Caltex have never done anything higher than 95 octane in recent years so I rarely buy gas there and only if I’m about to run out and then it’s a few litres.

    Disclosure – I do not own a Raleigh 20, Dragster or Chopper or at this time any bicycle as I find it safer to chain smoke Winston Churchill cigars and live off KFC.

    1. The power gain from higher octane fuel goes from nill to neglible depending if the car is designed to use it. The improved fuel economy, again only acheived if your car is designed to use it, is never enough to compensate for the extra cost. Stick with 91 unless the manual says your cars minimum is 95.

      1. If your car is recent enough to have fuel injection (that is, it’s from the mid-1990s or later), there is never any point in using any fuel other than what it says in the manual. The computer is smarter than you are. (And possibly a criminal mastermind if it’s a Volkswagen).

        Using a higher grade is just turning the fuel into needlessly expensive noise and carbon monoxide.

        Using a lower grade isn’t bad for the engine any more (no knocking), but the reduced efficiency of the engine will more than cancel out the few cents per litre you save.

      2. Virtually all modern engines have a “knock sensor” or acoustic sensor that picks up pre-igniting noises (pinking amongst other terms) that is different flame fronts colliding in the combustion chamber from the lesser quality nature of 91 octane. The computer then retards the timing before anyone notices and that definitely makes the computer smarter than me because I would have had to get out and adjust the distributor under the bonnet back in the day. On older cars running on 91 that they are supposed to be suited to, I often hear them pinking under load because the fuel is crap. But on any petrol engine retarding the ignition timing takes off kilowatts instantly. Test comparisons done on cars using both fuels, the KW gain is noticeable with high octane but not always at the top end but when the motor is most under load such as in the mid range revs. And the additives definitely helps keep the induction side of the engine cleaner. Mitsi’s GDI motors suffered badly from running on low octane fuels owing to the exhaust gas recirculator carboning up the inlet manifold from the poorer quality nature of low octane fuels. Thing is Kiwi’s love the cheaper gas so kept running them on it.

        It does make a difference and you get what you pay for.

        1. I remember forwarding this article to work mates years ago and resulted in heated debate…if your car can run on 91, don’t bother with higher octane, its a fallacy that somehow 98 has more energy and therefore more ‘power’. The only exception would be if you have a performance car with a higher compression ratio engine that would take advantage of the higher octane fuel’s ability to avoid knocking. For the vast majority of the NZ fleet though, 91 is all you need.

          1. Does that depend on region? From what I heard, newer cars are not designed to run on 91. And gas stations in Europe haven’t been selling 91 at all since decades.

  7. I drive a 2016 Nissan LEAF these days…..the new one with the larger battery. I don’t buy petrol at all anymore.

    I’ve wondered what to do with these discount vouchers. In the end I decided to throw them away as I have no desire to support or encourage use of fossil fuels.

    How’s the EV? Pretty good. I drove from Auckland to Opotiki and back yesterday. About 730km all up, including local trips in Opotiki to take care of some business.

    Not a drop of petrol bought….at any price. For me, that’s over. I imagine as more people make the break from fossil fuels and enjoy cheap, quiet, powerful electric motoring…..we will see many strategies employed to support making climate change even worse by burning more fossil fuels.

    1. Where did you recharge on your way? You can’t even make it Auckland to Tauranga… so was it Auckland -> Paeroa (charge) -> Whakatane (charge) -> Opotiki -> Whakatane (charge) -> Paeroa (charge) -> Auckland? I really want an EV, but to have it as my main vehicle I would need Tesla. Leaf however would be good for not-too-far-from-the-city running…

      1. The fast chargers on the way to Opotiki are mostly fairly close together, so I only need to charge to 80% for most legs. In reality, that meant drive to Thames early – charge for 20 mins (from 40% to 95%) while I get a quick breakfast at the cafe around the corner. So far, the car has finished charging before I’m done breakfast – every time. Then off to Tauranga and the Bayfair Mall (116km). That charge is only to 80%, so the stop is about 20mins (from 25% to 80%). Just enough time for a loo break and walk the dog on the grassy verge. Yes, i clean up. Then off to Whakatane….arrive on about 30%. Charge 80% again – about 15 mins – and off to Opotiki. I have enough range to get back to Whakatane, no problems.

        This is how I drive a petrol car, really. I learned years ago I arrive fresher and more alert if I stop every 60-90 mins…..and at the end of the day I’m not wrung out by staring over the steering wheel for hours. Tunnel-vision driving is very poor quality driving with respect to how you feel and behave later in the day. But there’s no telling most tunnel-drivers that….so I don’t usually bother. 🙂

        In so far as I haven’t really altered the way I travel, the EV is a perfect fit.

      2. Also….check out It’s the best resource for finding chargers in NZ. You will probably be surprised by how many there are now. More almost every day, too.

        A 24kWh Gen 2 Nissan LEAF should have no trouble ranging between Kawakawa and dargaville and Raglan, Rotorua and Whakatane…..and when Taupo finally get a fast charger the way south will finally be open to EVs with about 150km range. I drove to Wellington and back at the end of November, but it required an overnight in Napier…….but Napier to Wellington is breeze. We just have to close the gap at Taupo.

        The South Island is now ‘open’ between Invercargill and Dunedin….and a decent car (170km range ore more) can now make it to Christchurch from Dunedin. But the Kaikoura earthquake messed things up on SH1……requiring a cross to the west to get to / from Christchurch……and charging relatively slowly in campgrounds at 16amp (a full charge from 10% to 100% in about 7 hours).

        2017 will be the last year we have these issues. For Tesla owners with 400km range, they are already past any range problems in NZ.

        1. Thanks for that. Good to know these. Tesla, with their 85kWh battery would take 24 hours to fully recharge on a 15A plug in a campsite, and worse 37 hours on a standard wall plug (10A). So for these, charging infrastructure is so important, and yes, I agree that it’s a 2017 problem, and it will just keep getting better. I recently had my house rewired, and asked the electrician for a thick cable going into the garage for a potential EV charger in the future. The electrician thought I’m crazy, but complied with my request. I think the breaker is 32A (that’s 12 hours fully Tesla charge), but the cable can handle more he said. I vaguely remember he said that the biggest problem is that the street fuse for every house is 63A or 80A, so it’s not a good idea to allow a bigger breaker for the garage at this stage.

    2. Hi Truthseeker, would love to know how long that took – I do a bit of touring and range anxiety puts me off before I even look at the Leaf.

      1. We left Auckland at 06:25am and arrived in Opotiki about 12:25pm. But we weren’t rushing at all – breakfast in Thames – and had a walk around with the dog in Tauranga and again in the CBD in Whakatane, as my daughter had never been there before.

        The return leg was 15:50 to 22:40…..but we’d gone for a walk in Tauranga (dog) and again in Thames for half an hour as it was a nice evening and the place was very quiet. Also, the motorway was shut down from Papakura to Takanini and we had to work or way around a detour……..

        I reckon if I just pushed on and only did driving + charging and not a minute for anything else, it might take the usual 4 hours of non-stop (which I never do anyway – the bladder alone makes certain of that) plus 20min+15mins+20 mins for charging.

    3. Your EV trip sounds great – I can’t wait till the Leafs start coming to NZ second hand at an affordable price point.
      The next step on from that, which can’t be all that far away, is to have a solar cell roof panel on the car, so it can recharge both while you are driving and white you are parked at the diner having lunch. Got to be coming soon, surely? And then when you get home at night you can plug your car into the house, and run the house off the car for a few hours, and late at night the car can recharge off the Grid while cheap hydro or wind power fills the network. And no more oil used anywhere. Roll on that day! (except of course, diesel will still be being used on the NIMT as we never changed it over to electric…). But that’s a story for another post!

      1. What’s affordable? A 24kWh 2015 LEAF model S is about $25k these days. There are Gen 1 (2011-2012) LEAFs on TradeMe for as little as $13k. But their range would be about 100km-120km in the city. As for servicing, the LEAFs don’t seem to require any. Typically, EVs don’t have the parts that wear out or need servicing more frequently in “normal” cars: They do not have radiator or coolant or fan or fan belt. No gearbox or transmission fluid. No exhaust manifold, muffler or tail pipe. No combustion or pistons, so no oil or oil filter or spark plugs or air filter or distributor cap to become fouled. No cam belt to change every 100k km for $1000 a pop.

        In short, most of the stuff you need to get serviced in a petrol or diesel car doesn’t even exist in a LEAF. So when looking at the cost of the car bear in mind the servicing is limited to brakes, tyres and windscreen-wiper fluid and the occasional new 12v battery to run the dash gear. The LEAF is gaining a reputation as one of the most reliable cars ever built. This is how and why people have been willing to pay up to $45k to import a 2016 model with a larger battery…..and not be worried about servicing. They don’t really need any.

        Plus you charge at home and never buy petrol…..and electricity costs only 20 cents / kWh (9 cents at night from Ecotricity) and you might use only 5 or 10 of these in a day. It’s incredibly cheap.

        A LEAF is the one car you could keep on driving for months if you had no job and no income…….and used the free chargers around town to keep it going. If you’re not in reliable employment, a LEAF is cheaper than public transport. You can run it for literally $0 until you need new tyres.

        1. Thanks for the insights truthseekernz. There’s also flick electric, which is also that cheap to charge at night.

  8. > But why not just put 192.9 on the electronic sign?

    Because then you’d be able to get another 10c off with your supermarket voucher, of course!

  9. AA Smartfuel only makes sense if you fill up on a frequent basis – and that’s at least one full tank every 10 days. It’s also only fully worth it if you take advantage of $40 fills only and maximum discounts on offer (10c Wednesday or Friday). When I was doing this I was getting the equivalent of half a tank free every two months. Adding up to $250 per year give or take (pretty good). Now I bike and ferry (change in job) I prefer not having to worry about loyalty for the same f-ing product.

    The cheapest fuel is typically in areas where there are a few competing stations, preferably with a Gull nearby. CBD stations typically are the the worst.

    1. Whether it ‘makes sense’ for any person depends on a number of factors. In my case the supermarket that I use, the most common differences in posted prices between the stations that it is convenient to get to, and the amount that I value my time means that I most commonly use it (I’ll generally use 20c+ supermarket vouchers if available). My low overall mileage means that I put minimal effort into lowering my rate paid (and also limits the number of stations that it is convenient to get to).

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