Gas Stations sit the very intersection of transport, land use, and the energy transition, so are interesting to watch. Especially in the city core. The three buildings shown here are all on the sites of former gas stations in central Auckland.

The longer term fact is that gas stations are a declining feature of our world, and this is absolutely fantastic for the urban environment as they are pretty much the epitome of Junk-Space.

Stanley St

They are going because of the inevitable electrification of everything. Liquid fuels in all their utility and horrendous effects are being consigned to history in exactly the way horse shit and coal smoke were in cities last century. Because they are no longer competitive. How long this will take is going to be fascinating to watch. Yes vehicle powering stations in various forms will continue (and no hydrogen will not be among them- that hype balloon is bursting in real time), though public electric vehicle charging places in urban areas in a form similar to gas stations are much less likely because:

1. Around 85% of EV charging occurs privately because it is both cheaper and usually more convenient.

2. This is especially the case in NZ cities because we rely much less on over-night on street parking than some others, so this is already easier for most.

3. Public EV charging can happen at any carpark, already is in places, so this does not need dedicated stations, again costs encourage this outcome (somewhat different between cities where there will be specific charging/comfort stop locations).

Here’s a map of current gas stations in and around the city centre (in blue) plus the ones I remember having disappeared reasonably recently (in red):

Gas Stations current (blue), gone (red)

Please sing out if I missed any existing or recently expired ones.

There were 18, there’s now 12, so they’ve declined by a third. Not so sure over what time period, certainly a decade, maybe quite a bit less. Interestingly three to the west, three to the east. Understandably close pairs are well represented in the closures.

When any particular station goes is governed by a complex interplay of forces mostly to do with land value. Like fast food chains the business model for urban gas stations is less about the income from their main product than you might imagine. This is important of course, but they are primarily a land-banking play. Station business enables the property bet to wash its face while the owner waits for the compelling moment to cash out.

Fanshawe St

The more a street or road is de-valued by high traffic volumes, and/or low density and light industrial zoning, the more likely its gas station will persist. But this can be balanced by other forces. Two recent examples, indicated by red dots above on Stanley St and Fanshawe St, are on wide traffic streets fed by motorways (Stanley St is actually SH16), but due to university and city proximity respectively, both are also extremely valuable sites for people buildings, one accommodation, the other offices, so boom; gone.

We are clearly past the peak of urban gas stations and will only see decline from here on in, right down to zero. I suspect the Z energy on Beach Rd may be next, as other uses are coming for that area. Whereas the port proximate two on Quay St may be the very last ones, because of probably later to transition port traffic. Z Williamson Ave will likely be swept away in the next apartment building up-cycle. Same with GAS Mt Eden Rd.

I have long been puzzled by the two extremely close BPs on Jervois Rd, except that the older smaller one is likely quite lucrative for its footprint, and other uses for that site might be hard to achieve a higher return on. Whereas the bigger one is a sweet development site, its fate probably hanging on the pace of EV adoption in the wealthy surrounding area, plus the outcome of any further upzoning. (EV uptake is fastest in wealthy areas, for obvious reasons).

Ponsonby Rd

Kind of like bookshops, the ones that manage to outlast their competitors may experience a boom out of scarcity, as the last dinosaurs become dependent on them. Though unlike bookshops, they will all die eventually. So maybe video store is a better match. For another analogy; like analogue photographic products, the liquid fuels distribution industry is on the road of declining economies of scale. As EV numbers inexorably penetrate the fleet, the cost per unit of supplying the toxic soup will rise with lower volume. With or without real carbon taxes/pricing.

I think we could see the next six go fairly quickly, although the new government’s policies to delay the EV transition while also crashing the economy likely mean they get a longer reprieve. For example the most recent to go, the Caltex on Gt North Rd, remains a bare site as the drop in market confidence has delayed the apartment project on that site.

So, which one do you think is next, or last, and why?

After all, a new urban angel gets its wings every time one of these fugly voids in the city fabric is replaced by a real building for humans.

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  1. Interesting perspective. Good for you, Patrick, giving us a new way to look at things!

    Can I suggest changing the map image, with a different colour for the ones currently in blue? The blue does not stand out, so you don’t get an overall impression at a glance.

      1. You said close pairs are well represented – they only appear once, so not a statistically relevant factor in station closures

  2. While there may be fewer petrol stations in the city centres, on the urban fringe and in the country there has been a recent increase of big petrol stations, particularly by Waitomo and NPD. The transition is not very fast at all.

    1. Some data would be good – what happens in the city centre tends to spread to town centres throughout the city.

      Also some accountability: Council’s had plenty of time (and reviews of planning documents) since the climate declaration to take action. They could have protected the city from the unnecessary environmental risk of any extra petrol stations – given all the climate, safety, liveability and urban form reasons against them. We all pay in the end for wasteful construction of short-lived facilities. Yet there appears to have been no changes to the AUP or FDS about how this activity is classified. That’s a terrible oversight.

      I sat in on the start of the hearing about Gull’s application to put in a new service station in Pt Chevalier, along GNR road from two others and across the local road from a daycare centre. The applicants were surprisingly patronising (I would’ve thought they’d try to avoid that image, but they went all out to portray the opposition as uninformed and science-illiterate. Quite astounding, given how untrue it was.)

      They withdrew their application, but what a waste of residents’, businesses’ and officers’ time, when Council could have provided a more future-fit planning environment.

  3. Caltex House, Fanshawe St and also
    adjacent to the Deaf Society, Balmoral Rd are two I have used a lot, but now gone

    1. Yes, i wondered about including the Caltex on Fanshawe, but that closed quite a while ago, didn’t? If we go right back there even was one at the top of Shortland St!
      Where exactly was the Balmoral Rd one?

      1. If we’re really going back in time, what about that one on Nelson St that was tucked under a building? Can’t remember what company it was, it sticks out for me because I ran out of petrol on Victoria Park overpass once and juuuuust managed to nurse it to the Cook St off ramp. That was the closest petrol station to get a little top up.

        1. I think about 78 Nelson St, where the apartments are now. Which were built maybe late 90s? So we’re talking the thick edge of 30 years here, Patrick! Perhaps too late for this article.

  4. I thought at some point gas stations need a refurbishment including large underground works and cleanup. This may be a catalyst for closure. I have also thought that an EV station is much cheaper to install than a gas station – not to trivialise, but all you need is a block of land, some large wires and some charging “pumps”. I hope that in my lifetime, petrol becomes a fuel sold to enthusiasts and collectors, in Jerry cans or at dedicated petrol car displays.

    1. I work in the industry.

      Gas stations need ‘URM’ around every 15 years depending on what is happening with site and ground movement. During this process, tanks are dug up, refurbed or replaced, along with new lines, manways and associated infrastructure. Most recent one I am aware of is Mobil Glenfield which just re-opened.

      A URM is a horribly expensive process (the site will be closed for months) so if a site is marginal, then they may decided to close it for good, know that same demand for fuel volume (which is pretty inelastic) may be just moved to another site they supply.

      Maybe urban rumour but some small independent sites limp on with very low fuel sales and the theory is that the cost to stop operating and clean up a site that might have had 50+ years of petrochemical leaks, is so high that site owners just don’t want any land sales process to ever take a soil sample

      To be fair, any leaks are carefully monitored during operation, so mainstream corporates sites like BP/Mobil/Z etc are normally squeaky clean.

      EV charge sites are cheaper; I have seen some interesting proposals, but if the local lines say no to 3-phase for that location then you are screwed.

      Fast chargers are more expensive to purchase than a fuel dispenser, but typically less high end chargers on a site vs longer engagement time. Overall site build cost is lower but incomes is also lower.

      At least once an EV site is setup, you don’t need to keep pouring money/fuel into the tanks to keep income flowing.

      1. How good would it be to have a small coffee shop/cafe with the charging stations set up, good internet access and charging, easy cabinet food offerings etc. Would make the wait time for a charge a bit more pleasant and may turn over a bit more cash for the operator (depending on how they run it i.e. by themselves or lease it). I’d go there….

        1. I have noticed that supermarkets seem keen on providing them. For those going in to the store for a weekly shop it’s not a five minute job but they are equally not likely to stick around, blocking the space, for long once the job is completed.
          I have a friend who was one of the early adopters and he used to break his trip up with watching a film at the local cinema. He has since sold that car and brought another electric car with a longer range which better suits the longer trips he makes.

        2. Whats happening in Europe is gas stations are replacing pumps with chargers, or adding chargers if they have the space. Since EV owners spend longer at the site the amount of money they spend on food and drink in the station is generally higher than someone filling up with gas

  5. Balmoral Rd one was opposite Potters Park. My timeline might be longer than yours but there was a gas station in Pitt St opposite the YMCA too.
    Your essay is (as usual) excellent, and as I am a fan of Tony Seba, your hypothesis does align with some of his work too.

      1. Top of Vincent St was a Mobil station and it closed about 2008. The tanks were removed and it’s now a liquor store. There was another Mobil station in Hobson Street at number 217. That closed earlier. Meanwhile the BP at 1 Crowhurst St Newmarket and the Mobil at 352 Manukau Road have both had major upgrades- looks like they’ll be there for a while yet

  6. I celebrate the demise of gas stations but I’m cautious about getting too excited just yet. It seems that sometimes the closure of one station enables the opening of another slightly further out where the economics still stack up. The example I’m thinking of is in Wellington where the Z station near the railway station is now an office building, but then Waitomo opened an unmanned site on Hutt Rd where there was no previous gas station.

    As long as people are driving into the CBD, there will be a case to have enough gas stations to fuel them all somewhere along the route, though the locations might change. In this way, the opening of the CRL might have more of an impact on the viability of gas stations than land value in the next couple of years.

    1. Yeah this is absolutely the case, actually always has been, especially as they enlarged their foot print, land is cheaper further out. Is also where the last drivers of stinky vehicles will be.

      But the locational thing really matters, getting them out of centres for the fringes enables those centres to perform more like real urban places, bank agglomeration effects etc. One of the terrible outcomes of the fossil-motordom era was the enforced flattening of everywhere to one relatively low value monotonous condition.

      The future is already here, as they say, it’s just unevenly distributed.

    2. “As long as people are driving into the CBD….”

      Yeah this is a good point. However, it’s not so much the opening of the CRL that will impact whether people are driving into the city centre. As some people shift from driving to rail, others could shift from bus to driving. What will impact the amount of driving into the city centre is parking supply, parking costs, Access4Everyone making sustainable travel more convenient *than driving* and pricing to enter the city centre.

    3. I suspect the causality is the other way around. The shutting down of inner urban petrol stations is hastened by the opening of suburban / exurban unattended stations (waitomo NPD etc).10 or 20 c a litre cheaper, faster, newer.

      When I lived in Auckland I brought maybe half my fuel at the waitomo Hampton downs. Rather than the Caltex near my house. Suddenly these stations don’t wash their face any more.

      1. Yes, I wonder if these closures are not so much about EV uptake as the rise of apps that can tell you where the cheapest petrol in the city is, causing business to shift to these NPD type stations that can undercut the smaller more central places.

        Anecdotally, the Z near my place is a ghost town except for company vehicles while every time I go past one of those NPD or Waitomo unstaffed places they’re packed. And as far as I can tell from Stats NZ, EVs aren’t making an appreciable dent in total petrol imports by L yet.

  7. The real issue about reduction in fuel use is that the fuel industry expects to be selling just as much fuel into the future; they’re planning that it will go to aviation instead of land transport.

    This means the same amount of fuel will be causing twice or thrice as much climate damage because of the radiative forcing effect of burning it at higher levels.

    We need to celebrate the wins Patrick has outlined here, whilst campaigning to stop the airport expansions and airline growth plans, which are utterly destructive of our future. We are not starting from zero; domestic aviation is already targeted in Council’s plans. We just need to bring international aviation in as well and then stand up to the corporate bullies.

    1. A reminder that we have until 31 May to submit to the Climate Change Commission on bringing international aviation in to the 2050 climate target.

    2. You simply don’t understand the refinery process. As a rule of thumb, road fuels make up 40-50% of the production, while Jet fuel is 8-11%.
      Therefore the fuel industry doesn’t expect the demand destruction of petrol and diesel to be replaced by aviation fuel.
      That said, NZ will be importing liquid road fuels for decades to come because the demand will still exist.

      1. Channel Infrastructure (the company that imports and refines fuel at Marsden Point) laid out their projections in this presentation.

        Between 2023 and 2030, they are predicting their overall imports to rise; petrol is lower, jet fuel is higher.

        By 2050 (that magical net zero date 26 years away) they’re predicting fuel imports to still be 90+% of 2023 levels, but for most of it to be jet fuel. Thus, the climate damage will be significantly higher than today.

        Channel Infrastructure imports about 40% of NZ’s fuel demand, so it’s significant even if the other importers have different projections. They’re probably not that different. Christchurch Airport, for example, is planning for major increases in passenger numbers.

        Perhaps I “simply don’t understand the refinery process”. Or perhaps you’re part of the aviation and fuel industry greenwash machine.

        1. You are just wrong!
          Global aviation growth in the 24-30 period is projected at 10%. However in this time we will also see Air New Zealand reaching 20% SAF content.
          Taking the mid point being 10%, then there is no GHG emissions increase.
          However, even if the growth was 10% and Air NZ imported zero SAF, and totally ignoring the fuel efficiencies gained through fleet replacement, 10% of refinery yield *10% doesn’t come anywhere close to replacing the ground fuels demand.
          Stop trying to reinvent the distillation process, you simply can’t squeeze more Jet production out of a refinery than is currently being run!

        2. Air NZ reaching 20% SAF content by 2030? Chuckle. How do you reckon they will manage that?
          – Will it be made from waste oil from takeaway shops? (This is tiny in volume and already being used.)
          – Will they get some high-tech ‘wood to SAF’ plants up and running by then? (Despite showing no interest in actually investing in them. I suppose they’re expecting public money to be used.)
          – Will they chew up an inordinate amount of NZ’s electricity generation to make SAF synthetically, pushing the price of electricity up, inequitably?

          I don’t think so. This is simply a continuation of the aviation industry’s history of kicking the can down the road, promising technological improvements but actively working to increase passenger volumes which, of course, swamp any emissions improvements.

          If you can see that Channel’s projections are incompatible with the distillation process, take it up with them. Those are their own projections.

        3. “Stop trying to reinvent the distillation process”

          Channel Partners don’t refine anything, they just import. If they wanted to import 100% Jet fuel they could

        4. Today there is about 10 million tonnes of UCO available for SAF production. Of course there are other feedstocks available. This is for HEFA refinery technology and after that there is ATJ pathways that massively increase feedstock availability. Then there is Gasification technology and finally ETJ. Contrary to your wrong assumption, ETJ would actually result in lower retail electricity prices and that’s part of the problem with this technology pathway.
          You just simply don’t understand what you are talking about.
          As for Jet imports, yes of course a company could increase Jet fuel imports, but without the demand – remember it’s a flatline – who would do that? You also need to have the dedicated JIG compliant tank storage and NZ doesn’t have that available to ramp up import volumes.
          This is the problem when a commenter doesn’t know what they are talking about, but pretend they are authoritative on a subject. It’s all just white noise.

        5. Electricity prices will always be lower, regardless of available technologies, if aviation doesn’t add its enormous energy demands to the electricity sector.

        6. @ Heidi

          my employer (one of the world’s largest airlines) is already ahead of the ball with SAF. All of our company ground support equipment uses it and so do many of our long haul flights. ANZ might struggle to reach that 20% target but my company is well on its way to achieving it, greatly helped by COVID forcing the retirement of our old “coal burners”.

      2. The alternative aviation fuel reports from the UK group Safe Landing, an organisation of aviation workers concerned about the climate effects of aviation, it is clear that all the past global projections of production of these fuels have been way off. But despite this sort of evidence the techno optimists keep putting up predictions that AAF growth will solve our problems as it supports the growth of the industry and delays real reductions. And just announced is the demise of company that was seen as a global leader in the production of AAFs. This company was a partner of Air New Zealand.

        1. Nice point to call them AAF, as the term SAF is an oxymoron, and will be until aviation is reduced to the minimum required for our collective good; a level that can sustain the climate without requiring inequitable levels of resources.

          Burning the fuels at the higher altitude causes so much more damage there is no pathway to sustainability while people fly for all the purposes they currently attempt to justify. Flying is very abnormal behaviour, as highlighted by research on equity in transport.

        2. AAF is just woke bs. The fuel made from HEFA, PTL, Gasification and ETJ are all sustainable because of the life cycle emissions.
          You are trying to argue against accepted science and global GHG reporting standards.
          Windsorstar has never been considered a global leader in the production of SAF, that is simply nonsense.
          You are starting to sound like antivaxers

  8. Interesting post. What about hybrids which still need refuelling – I see more and more hybrids on city streets but is there some data on that?

    1. If it helps, I have a hybrid that runs about 5 litres per 100km. At a time when I was commuting from Feilding to Palmerston North five times a week (a 50km round commute daily before covid and working from home became a thing) it cost me about $40 a week to fill up. Petrol prices were a bit cheaper then but a lot of people were shocked when I told them how little it cost me. So I imagine hybrid vehicles would contribute greatly to reduced demand for gas.

      1. There is a meaningful fuel saving. A lot of the improved economics though is the decreased FED paid, which is a bit of a false saving for the country.

    2. Yes this is another reason the last stations will go on, there will be a long tail to this.

      Hybrids are basically awful, a con. It turns out in practice most people, so acculturated to refuelling at stations, tend to largely use them as fossil vehicles. Just extra heavy ones hauling around batteries etc. Some regenerative charging benefit of course, but without actually plugging in (on plug-in versions) they never meet their stated fuel economies.

      Tragically the government gave them a favourable tax break while disproportionately punishing full EVs. In their infinite wisdom. Toyota no doubt is pleased.

      1. I think you might be confusing plug in hybrids with just plain hybrids. I do agree in the case of plug in ones, but normal ones are better than straight petrol. My 1.5L Corolla hybrid wagon weighs 1100kg and does 800km on 35 litres. My old plain petrol Vitz weighed just under 1,000kg and would get 550km per 35L. So the hybrid is way ahead. My work colleague bought a plug in hybrid Mitsi Outlander that weighed 2 tonnes and used as much gas as the corolla with charging both at work and home, so not great tech as far as that particular example goes.

        Would love to go full EV but can’t charge at home and I bike most places anyway, car still required for some things sadly.

      2. Charging up a plug-in hybrid at home would surely be cheaper than using fuel all the time? So what are the barriers? Whatever those barriers are, these will also prevent those same people from using EVs.

        There is also this thing called “mild hybrids”, like the OG Toyota Prius, but I don’t think those got a tax break.

      3. You really show your dumb leftist inability to do the basic maths of the energy equation that would show how the transfer of an energy source for the national transport fleet, from fossil fuels to electricity, is a financial and practical impossibility for this country.
        This would require the doubling of electricity generation and the doubling of capacity of all the transmission lines, substations, local transformers and cabling into consumers premises.
        Your Red Queen and mates who have wrecked the economy over the last 6 years have made the possibility of making this investment impossible for at least a generation.
        EV’s can not replace all private cars in NZ, but only a small fraction before the ability of the power grid is saturated.
        Of course what you and fellow leftists really want is not the elimination of private cars (which is part of the process), but the elimination of our democracy and the capitalism that underpins this.
        This also drives your consistent theme of wanting everyone to be crammed into the CBD, as having people living outside the dump called Auckland and free to enjoy their cars to visit the beautiful NZ countryside, is an anathema to the idea of the Soviet style of command and control of the population

        1. Ah you do a great job of selling your argument with personal insults and other irrelevancies, but, ignoring that for now, you are also just flat wrong on what it is required to replace every stinky engine with clean electric powered ones.
          Firstly combustion is just so hopelessly inefficient at producing usable energy that takes 3 times as much primary energy to get the same amount of output. Mostly they just make heat and fumes. So straight way we divide the energy required by a third.
          Second this country can generate huge amounts of renewable electricity, at way less cost than importing poison from Saudi Princes. And thirdly, so much of this future power will not even use the grid. It will be both in front of and behind the meter.

          Keep riding your horse and cart, and whatever you do please don’t come to the city, please stay happily huffing on fumes in whichever fortress you’re holed up in.

        2. Sounds like the Red Queen is living rent free in your head mate, maybe a walk outside and some fresh air would do you good.

          Anyway, what you are overlooking is the positive financial impact switching to EV’s has on the economy. Reducing our imports of fossil fuels has a positive impact on our country’s balance of payments and building all the new infrastructure to supply said energy makes a net contribution to our GDP/tax revenue.

          E.g. all the new higher paying jobs to build and support such development vs the low paying servo jobs that will disappear.

        3. Hi Chris, I realise burying you in facts and data won’t help so you can skip the link below. However, those who see some grains of truth in your comments might like to follow this link and see how electricification of homes and transport is such a winning strategy for all. What’s more you can do it yourself. You don’t need to kowtow to your Red Queen or Black Robber Baron to make a positive change to your finances and the planet. Thanks to Rewiring Aotearoa for putting this together.

        4. Given that getting an EV almost never requires upgrading the cabling into our homes, how can a full EV transition require upgrading the cabling into our homes? If our neighbour has an EV too then suddenly my supply cable isn’t good enough?

        5. Patrick, interestingly you mention horse and carts. Even these will not be able to deliver commercial supplies to your concentrated urban communities once all the roads have been narrowed down for footpaths and cycle ways.
          Also interesting that Henry Ford didn’t need the government subsidising cars, petrol and petrol stations nor taxing hay and stables to enable the transition to the private car.
          As for the people who think that the cost of enabling the grid to feed 4 million EV’s is negligible, they clearly have not worked in the power distribution industry.
          Yes, I am intentionally insulting to any who follow the evil prophet Marx, as would more people if they bothered to read his works.

        6. Chrisb I have alerted the Aotearoa Marxist Army and shortly they will be forcibly relocating you to the re-education centre whereupon your “graduation” you will be supplied with a complimentary composting guide to help once we have successfully destroyed the the concept of freedom by FORCING urban kiwis to live within walking distance of a grocery store and making public transport a viable alternative to driving. You messed with the wrong lefties, gramps.

        7. Why do all the liquid fueled cars need to be replaced? Not everyone who has a liquid fuel car will require an EV. Most of fleet of non EVs are not required. The volume of cars currently on the roads will become less. Cities first, provincial towns next, rural areas last. There will be more scope for car sharing, ultra short term rental – couple of hours, other rental/lease options and the ability to use what is needed at the time – car, van, ute with trailer, light truck.

        8. First of all, the Red Queen was really shitty at being a red queen. She got elected into office (what self-respecting monarch does that in the first place?), allowed people to re-vote whether they want to keep her in office after 3 years and resigned after 5 years. In the meantime, she had not beheaded a single spouse!

          Second, all that people really want is a functional inner city and town centres with streets that kind of look likes Amsterdam, London or Tokyo. Do you think that all these city centres are completely inaccessible for deliveries and people in Tokyo are forced to build their fridges from scratch using only pieces that fit into their backpacks?
          With all due respect, this is not the case.

        9. Phil, you are obviously a convert to Marx. Have you read his work or are you just one of the “useful idiots” described by Lenin?

        10. John, your Red Queen didn’t chop off heads of individuals, she has imploded the whole economy.
          If you think Auckland will in any way become a pale shadow of the cities you mentioned within the next century, you are sadly deluded.
          As a country we need to build a new economy based on our natural comparative advantage. I doubt whether trying to transform a tired neo colonial port town is going to figure largely in that process.

        11. Hmm, lots of drivel, the change is happening, but there is a point that currently our EV is a scam. The environmental damage from them is similar to current petrol vehicles just that the damage takes place wherever mining and the batteries will go as the vehicles gets retired.
          Maybe we’ll do what we always do in NZ, not plan and instead ship it off to Indonesia or China (like or recyclables) pretending we don’t have any issues and never mentioning the fact that our rubbish goes into landfill in Indonesia.

        12. Chrisb your smooth, creaseless brain will soon be filled at the re-education center with the glorious knowledge of the prophet Marx, please remain seated if your varicose veins and lumbargo doesn’t keep you sedentary already.

    3. Yes, hybrids are neck and neck as the most popular fuel type with straight petrols for new registrations. Hybrids make have been making up between 30% and 40% of fleet entrants.

      Ie half of the vehicles entering the NZ fleet that use petrol are hybrids.

      Scroll down on this page to see the appropriate graph

        1. meaningful efficiency improvements over standard ICE
          negligible toxic air pollution output
          drop in replacement for existing ICE vehicles

          New BEV’s are a slight improvement to the status quo in that portion the vehicles driving past me don’t change much. Come to think of it I’d rather we imported 6 used toyota aquas over a single new Tesla (being that cost matters), would see much faster fleet improvement.

        2. Locks in fossil fuel use for longer.
          You are right that it’s actually more about size and weight. Tax on size and weight, as well as drive train.
          Who on earth is deciding between a Tesla or an Aqua? No one, these are different markets. Any number of BYD Seagulls or similar are way preferable to any number of any mild hybrids.
          Change is here now, the moment when a stinky car will be unsellable at anything other than crisis price will come suddenly, there will be loud complaints. Hopefully we won’t have a government that chooses to subsidise these (more).

        3. “negligible toxic air pollution output”

          Compared to what?
          A badly tuned 10+ year old diesel Ute?
          Yeah. Right.

          Most “plug less” hybrids still produce over 100g of CO2 per km.
          Plus all the other nasties in the exhaust stream to boot.

          Hardly “neglible” no matter how you slice and dice it.

        4. “a stinky car will be unsellable at anything other than crisis price”

          That sounds more like the story for a Nissan Leaf with 100k kms on the clock

        5. Greg N

          Comparing any NZ new petrol vehicle, and most second hand petrol imports to an EV.

          Refer to this study:
          Figures on Page 13 and 24 are what is relevant.

          A new Euro 6d petrol has 1.5x the toxic emission impact of an EV
          There is very little difference between the current Euro 5 and Euro 6d in petrol vehicles.

          Point being that marginal improvements are fine, good even. I like not breathing in crap.

      1. Lord save us all from the ceaseless efforts of the plodders at the MoT to make sure nothing much ever changes. Their self appointed task is to defend the status quo at length, to make sure change, if it can’t be resisted entirely, only ever happens glacially. All incumbents are to be dutifully honoured and protected, walled gardens maintained, dials only able to be tweaked, if not kept fully stuck. All pearls clutched.

  9. I’m wondering if the stations closed due to an increase in land value, relative decrease in cost to rezone the land but primarily due to underground storage tanks reaching their end of life.

    Replacing the tanks would not be cheap. With other petrol stations nearby companies may not have wanted to invest that much on a site that they didn’t ultimately want to keep as a station for the next 50 years.

    Develop the site and use the money to build a new petrol station in an area where there are fewer constraints, such as noise restrictions and increased travel time due to congestion within the CBD.
    Seems like a win win for the companies to me.

    1. Treating groundwater pollution from spills and seeping tanks is also a cost they’re wanting to avoid by selling the old ones off. One of the things Council should have established long ago is a (large) targeted rate on service stations to create a fund for future rehabilitation. And having not established in then, it should be created now, higher for older or suspect sites, and any sale should be subject to an environmental repair sales tax.

  10. I have noticed a similar phenomenon on the North Shore where a single storey house on a corner site is removed and replaced a quad of small three storey units cheek by jowl and looking immediately into each others windows. The attraction is that is easy to get separate vehicle entry for each unit – not pedestrian friendly on the footpath.
    This Chinese development is unfortunately not architecturally visually attractive for the locals. A properly designed apartment building would have been much better.

    1. The argument against housing in a housing crisis is not fair. Yes, perhaps some houses could be better designed, but that often adds cost, not every house has to be top spec.
      Attractive is very subjective. What we’re seeing being built is basically 2 or 3 story versions of the sausage flats of the 70’s. So I don’t really have a problem with them.

      1. Yeah it’s best to be thankful of the change from petrol station to housing of any kind. Still, we need to demand better of Council. Council officers spent so much time resisting intensification when they could have been improving the regulations to allow development types that:
        – fundamentally improve the transport environment (via contiguous footpaths and a departure from driveways to each residence) and
        – the ratio of permeable to impermeable land (via perimeter block housing).

    2. This is the generic observation that modern architecture sucks. But that is a different discussion.

      There is a problem with such developments that is hinted at in the post — they rely on on-street parking. This is easily observable around existing examples: every such development adds to the wall of parked cars on our street. It is quite unusual to be able to easily park more than one car for each house, but you to close approximation have one car for each adult.

      And due to where these developments happen, that amount of cars is more or less fixed. If you want high density housing where people use less cars, you have to build it in, or very close to town centres. But that is not what happens, town centres are almost always entirely uninhabited. Takapuna is a particularly bad example of this.

      1. Every car owned requires parking everywhere it is driven to. You may be focused on where they are stored when home; where they are stored when out is just as important. It’s just that most people ignore this because it’s a less visible effect of development.

        Sites with offstreet carparking lead to higher car ownership. Sites with no carparking lead to lower car ownership. These are causal relationships.

        The problem of ‘walls of parked cars’ is resolved through putting our asset base to better uses than storing cars – that is, turning parking lanes into safe protected bike lanes – to reduce the need for car ownership. If people want to own a car, the existing housing base includes excessive numbers of houses with ample carparking. People just have to choose that this is worth the cost, rather than choosing to go car-free.

        New developments will be around far too long to be designing its car parking supply for today’s car ownership statistics.

        1. Yeah in the end any solution is going to involve less cars.

          The problem is that these developments are showing up in the wrong places. We are never going to have less cars if we are still randomly spreading people over our entire built up area. I just don’t see how that is geometrically possible.

          If you’re wondering if the problem of where to store cars when out is visible, you only have to visit the Pak’n’Save in Wairau Valley. It is VERY visible.

        2. Yeah. Intensification in the central areas is critical; it’s premature to be intensifying areas without amenities too much. But there are big areas of the built area which can do with more residents to support more bus services and more amenities. (Clearly not on the periphery or near to it.)

          The thing about the big carparks like the Pak’n’Save you mention is that people don’t associate this with developments that provide offstreet parking. Nor do they associate them with the existing (car dependent) housing stock. Yet that is the development type that does have a causal factor. They do, of course, associate the problem with the supermarket itself (which is correct).

          However, they also conflate car-light housing developments with big carparks at supermarkets, etc. And that’s the point I’m trying to raise. Housing developments with no carparking are not a causal factor in car dependent planning. They are part of the solution.

    3. Are you sure that it’s just about vehicle access? I’ve heard from other sources a big factor is actually that many Kiwis still greatly prefer freehold title to cross lease or unit title. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your description but it sounds like it might allow freehold for each residence. Apartments won’t

      1. For clarity, the actual residences might be cross-lease initially, but conversion to freehold is at least seen as a possibility. But something inherently not possible with apartments. And I should mention, I think the examples I heard about related to why there were the narrow multistorey buildings rather than a single large building with each floor a different residence. (I mean this might technically be apartments, but not what I personally consider apartments.)

  11. Anyone have any idea how much money the servos are making out of their food bussiness as a portion of the total income, particularly in the urban areas? The BP in central Hamilton (Tristram Street) used to make a heap- good coffee- from people like me who worked in the area.
    Also interested to hear more about the “hydrogen bubble”- my impression is that hydrogen will be a goer for heavy trucks, particularly in rural areas. That’s partly because of weight limits on bridges- given that hyrdogen trucks will be no heavier than diesel ones.

  12. Technically there is a fuel station on Y pier in Westhaven. Given every marina berth has a dedicated min 16A supply the infrastructure is there for the craft that only needshorter range liquid fuel propolusion capability, but uptake is very slow as the fleet has a much longer lifespan than a typical road vechicle.

  13. One of the worst is on Fanshawe Street, obviously a hideous motorway onramp to cross at any time, but the gas station that sits amongst the barren cliff side is particularly post utopian.

    If there has been a modest decrease over the past decade, that means less between my first city life, and my current city life. So in this hard to find good news world, I am happy to smile a little about this!

    1. Yep the station and the weird panel beaters type building on Fanshawes days are surely up. I’m sure Mansons will be sniffing around ready to plop another glass box.

    2. That stretch is terrible and heavily used by pedestrians, scooters, etc. Of course we’ve allowed a large number of vehicle crossings (including brand new buidlings) which block walkers, sometimes block the bus lane (possibly the busiest stretch in NZ with all north buses using it) which can make such a frustratingly long journey just to go from Britomart to the motorway.

      It should be a great, flat link from Downtown to Victoria Park. A wide footpath, plus bike / scooter lane – then full bus lane 24/7.

      The slip lane round to Halsey st also sucks – but of course nothing must impede car flow

  14. Thanks for raising the point about the diminishing economies of scale. This is what I have been trying to tell people. Transitioning from fossil fuel is going to be urgent within the next 10 years because the costs will go up so much with the squeezed margins and using up of easy accessible extractable oil reserves. Transitioning to EV won’t be the panacea because there will be a global energy cost pressure, despite how much of our power comes from dams. Once we get a big fleet of EVs charging overnight, guess what the price off peak will go up as all those charging EVs will flatten the peak.

    Im specifically talking about for those who cant/don’t want to deal with the climate emergency. It’s my opinion that it’s urgent right now because of the climate emergency. But trying to convince people that building more roads is bad, somehow explaining it in basic economic terms of how much the price at the pump or charging at home is going to go up seems to get through more effectively.

    1. Ta, disruptive change is invisible if all we do is look at current data and behaviours, by definition!
      Economies of scale break exactly in the way Hemingway answered the question; how did you go bankrupt? “Gradually, then suddenly”

  15. The design life of gas stations and their underground fuel systeme pre the 1988 deregulation of fuel retailing was under 20 years.
    Pre deregulation Oil companies had no security over their assets on the vast majority of sites.
    Deregulation and vastly better environmental enforcement under the Resource Management Act in 1991, meant that sites were either closed or retanked and repiped with the newly available double skinned fibreglass tanks and double skinned MDPE pipework.
    This modest investment really only bought time. The time taken for the underlying land value to rise above the level where the income from land intensive fuel retailing plus the annual uplift in property value remained above any alternative use.

    Fuel retailing still has significant contingent risk, especially when surrounded by extremly high valued neighbouring properties

    And there remains the commercial risk that society, neighbours, and lastly the authorities will insist on vapour recovery from fuel tank vent pipes when delivering into underground storage.
    Stage 1 Vapour recovery, now common in comparable countries.

    From the NZ Ministry of The Enviironment Risk Radar Fact Sheet 11

    air pollution is not usually associated with service stations,
    apart from emissions from their vehicle traffic – but it is
    common overseas for vapour from underground tanks to
    be collected as it is displaced up the breather tubes while
    the tanks are being filled. Vapour from vehicle tanks and
    dispenser nozzles is also collected, and put back into the
    storage tanks. Overseas regulations have seen vapour
    recovery systems save millions of litres of gasoline per
    year, increasing service station profits while reducing the
    formation of lung damaging smog, reducing fire risk, fumes
    and health risk, by keeping these toxic fumes out of the
    air. To find out more, go to

    This fact sheet details the specific environmental risks, therefore some of the commercial risks of operating these sites.

    The risks of operating fuelling sites are both site, and throughput related.
    Reducing the number of sites and concentrating the volume on fewer sites reduces the overall risk.

    1. Work in the industry as well?

      Costco put in a vapour recovery system for their fuel site as they built to an Australian standard design

      Not aware of anybody else using a VRS as lot of expense for very little gain economically, though I do agree that for sites in urban settings it might be nicer to reduce vapour for neighbours/staff on site

      1. It is more then being nicer.
        Petroleum vapours are a significant health hazard. They are carcinogenic for a start and can cause nerve damage.

        A 40000 litre delivery of petrol will displace 40m3 of petrol laden air from the vent pipe.
        We know that this airspace of the tank will almost certainly be above the upper explosive limit, so above about 7% by weight of petroleum vapour
        From memory the loss here is about 0.1% of throughput.
        And a similar amount when it is pumped into cars.
        So about 0.2% of throughput lost into the air around petrol stations.
        So they most definitely are not good neighbours.

        So a 5 million litre per year site could loose the equivalent 10000 litres of liquid petrol to the surrounding air.
        Perhaps not enough to justify the expenditure to recover the about 85% of this with vapour recovery, but I don’t believe that economics should be the sole criteria.

        Hence the push elsewhere in the world to vapour recovery. Stage 1 delivery into storage, and stage 2 delivery into cars.

        I am happy if some one could supply better figures then my memory

  16. One thing I noticed is the price per litre is significantly dearer in the inner city stations compared to gull or npd out here in the South. I am thinking my next car might be a hybrid but I will wait to see if my eyesight passes the test before forking out. I mostly just use the bus or train these days only using the car for longer trips. But I don’t think I want to waiting around at an EV charger on a seven hour drive to see my son even if it’s only a couple of times per year I also hear price for power at public charges is just as expensive as if you were using petrol so what’s the point if I am not using the car around town. As a nation I believe we should be concentrating on electrifying our public transport and road and rail freight before worrying too much about cars.

    1. Amount of time I’ve had to wait for an EV charger on a road-trip: 0 hours, zero minutes, zero seconds.

      As for the cost: It ‘cost’ me $40 for what would have been $111 of petrol to drive the equivalent distance. If I’d had a fob set up that let me charge my home KW hour rate instead of the charger rate, it would have been half that.

      1. Okay good for you maybe you do a lot of miles. Its the initial cost of the car which puts me off. I suspect there is a minimum yearly milage you would need to travel to make it worthwhile.

        1. what you don’t want to pay $50,000 to save $70?

          But wait, $111 divide by $2.7/litre = 41 litres, at 5l/100km = 820km trip.
          RUCs on 820km = $62

          So actually, it cost you the same

  17. Pretty sure there used to be a gas station also on Newton Road on the site of the apartment block “One on Ophir” – or at least close by there.

  18. The two Jervois Rd ones a kind of fed, maybe, from the on and off ramps to the Harbour Bridge.
    Good post, it’s good to see them go and replaced with something much more attractive.

    1. First one on Jervois Road (nearer to Ponsonby) is a BP 2GO site. So owned and operated by an independent dealer who buy fuel (and branding rights) from BP

      The other is a BP Connect site. So a BP company owned (including land) and operated site.

  19. I think it’s only the past couple of years some people have started using the term “gas station” rather than “petrol station”. Can we use this to tell who is a heavy consumer of American media?

  20. I think it’s more smaller, old stations with life expired fuel tanks being replaced by large format stores with carwash and cafe. You could do the same analysis for hardware stores. And many other retail categories.

  21. The large BP on Jervois will always be busy because of the huge number of gas-guzzling 4x4s and SUV’s in the neighbourhood. These people are immune from cost of living so don’t really care if the price is higher. Also, BP has the Police contract so you don’t go more than about an hour without a cop car in refuelling. The Fire Service are also BP and use it as they can get the big boy engines in and out.

    1. Super interesting.
      The Police have (somewhat disappointingly, though could be worse) just bought a whole lot of hybrids from Skoda. Next cycle hopefully they’ll do a proper job and get full EVs.

        1. I really don’t understand why they would not move entire fleet to non-plugin hybrids other than they plumped on Skoda who only do PHEVs.

          No charge time or other limitation like with BEVs, just lower emissions and lower fuel usage. And with high kilometres they do they quickly become cost effective; just look at the number of Prius clocking up hundreds of thousands of KM as Ubers.

          Just checked Skoda’s online and a Superb Wagon, the difference in price is not huge between PHEV and full petrol. If you don’t plug them in (a waste), then still about 1.5l per 100km difference. So given a police car might do anything upto 100,000 km per year, could be saving about 1,500 litres or ~$4,500 in fuel. I would think that if you could get at least half the fleet plugging in at night or even a fast charge over lunch, that still makes them more cost effective with reduced emissions a bonus.

        2. As far as i could see, you can’t do a fast charge on a Skoda PHEV, but otherwise totally agree with your points..

          For taxi drivers hybrids are all the rage, a little extra capital cost for lower running costs. But the public sector seems to ignored hybrids. All those new busses AT/operatators have introduced in the last 10 years should have been hybrid. London has been running hybrid busses for 15 years. I still feel i must be missing something about the economics in NZ for virutally all public services to have ruled out hybrid vehicels.

        3. In NZ bus companies wear all the cost of buying, maintaining and fueling buses across the lifetime of the vehicle.

          I don’t know either, but if hybrid buses were more economic over the life the operators would have used them. I guess they aren’t. There all shifting to electric now anyway, because those are more economic.

  22. Top of Vincent St was a Mobil station and it closed about 2008. The tanks were removed and it’s now a liquor store. There was another Mobil station in Hobson Street at number 217. That closed earlier. Meanwhile the BP at 1 Crowhurst St Newmarket and the Mobil at 352 Manukau Road have both had major upgrades- looks like they’ll be there for a while yet

  23. The EV market is tanking all around the world as the reality sets in.

    Watch MGuy on YouTube for the EV issues.

    Not suitable yet for the general public. Early adopters yes, greenies yes, wealthy yes.

    No longer makes financial sense for most with upfront cost without subsidy,significant depreciation,insurance and public charging cost along with now road user taxes.

    Disclosure: We own a Tesla Model Y and is ok for us as we have charging at home and have petrol and diesel vehicles.

      1. This transition will happen here maybe 10 or 20 years later than in the rest of the world. We are in a quite unusual situation due to all those relatively cheap imported cars from Japan. For most people it makes sense to buy one of those second hand cars. The average age of the cars on our roads is also increasing.

  24. Great post Patrick. Based on the number of anti-EV, pro-fossil fuel comments you must be hitting the mark.

    1. What motivates those people? How can someone be against an electric vehicle? Petrol cars are not going to disappear so if they really love them they can get one.

      or is it just part of the wider misinformation, say everything is “woke” if they don’t like it, get their news from Facebook or youtube and are friends with Chrisb?

      1. It’s one guy, an oil trader that has a hard on for Patrick. I guess he sees his whole world coming to an end so viciously fights against it.

    1. Surely the global market matters the most, like it does for nearly everything else in NZ?

      Fuel prices will likely continue to increase, coupled with pressures to lower emissions from overseas trading partners, etc and hard to see how electric will not eventually take over.

      1. We live in NZ, why do EV sales numbers around the world matter to us ? It’s what our EVs sales are that matter and they have declined. The obvious reason is that the subsidies have been removed – Other countries still have subsidies. The question for NZers is do EVs make financial sense and are fit for their lifestyle ?. The depreciation,higher insurance,real world range,range anxiety, battery degradation,public charging and the perception of battery fires etc I believe NZers probably find challenging.
        I’m definitely not anti EV – we have a EV and I love it. I have a fair bit of shares in Tesla and Rivian.
        NZ has seen price reductions with EVs however other markets have had significant reductions, different market conditions.
        However I can see why people would prefer a cheap petrol or diesel vehicle over a EV in NZ as overall it’s cheaper again it’s due to our current market pricing.

        1. The vast majority of our vehicle fleet are 2nd hand Japanese imports, it’s reasonably obvious why trends overseas are important.

        2. Yes the subsidy is the main reason for sure in NZ & I’m sure just the purchase price is the main thing holding people back. The change in purchase numbers before and after the subsidy make that clear. Everything else is a secondary reason. NZ’s are quite sensitive to prices if you ask me due to our relatively low wages. Gotta get that sale price/bargain.

    2. I am not at all surprised that sales have dipped after the subsidies were removed.
      People knew months in advance when the cut off for the subsidies was. Anyone serious about owning an EV would have been stupid to not make that purchase before the subsidies were removed.
      So there will have been a number of people who have brought their purchase forward rather than wait another month or two and miss out or even another year or two and miss out on the subsidy.
      Yes it will take sales some time to pick back up.

  25. Point 3 Public EV charging can happen at any carpark, already is in places, so this does not need dedicated stations, again costs encourage this outcome (somewhat different between cities where there will be specific charging/comfort stop locations).

    Public charging stations in NZ are small, they are often located in areas where they cannot expand, far from any facilities, toilets, pie shop…….they are not helping encourage EV ownership. If we don’t leave space for public chargers we will never
    have quality charging infrastructure. In Europe and the US Tesla stations with 24/36/48 superchargers are commonplace, multi-operator sites with 50-100 chargers with facilities are being built, we haven’t planned for any of this.

    The next issue is can high speed chargers be legally installed in parking buildings in NZ, this is an issue in some countries, if it’s not a regulatory issue the buildings insurance company also has a say, often they are not prepared to allowed high speed chargers in parking garages.

    This blog is against parking buildings and advocates there removal from the CBD. Not replacing some of these petrol stations with highspeed charging locations is not future proofing or helping wih the adoption of EV’s in New Zealand.

    1. Here in the South Island public charging stations are not being put in locations “where they cannot expand, far from any facilities, toilets, pie shop”.

      The closest one to me is in the council supplied parking area for the central retail area of my town, and directly across the road from McDonalds. Within 300m you have a very good range of restaurants, cafes, fast food locations to choose from, and a supermarket. Which brings me to the next point that many of the supermarkets down this way are adding charging stations to their carparks. Obviously the more time you spend inside the supermarket the more money you are likely to spend.

      In fact the newest retail development in the town I live in has something like five charging stations, because developers realise that people charging their cars will spend money. Any carpark where the majority of carparks don’t have charging stations do by their nature have room to increase the number that do have them.

      What you are asking for is already happening.

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