New Zealand town funds its own petrol station

The new petrol station in Pongaroa Image copyright Radio New Zealand
Image caption "Fill her up please, and wipe the flies off the blinkers while you're at it"

A remote New Zealand township has funded its own petrol station because residents were fed up with their four-hour round trip to buy fuel.

The nearest petrol station for people living in Pongaroa on New Zealand's North Island had previously been a two hour drive to either Pahiatua or Dannevirke, Radio New Zealand reports. The round-trip journey was some 144 miles (232km).

Pongaroa has not had a petrol station since its last one closed four years ago, and so its 120 residents set about raising NZ$250,000 (US$180,000; £135,000).

In the end, donations, interest-free loans and a grant from the local authority meant that they were able to fund half of the costs themselves. The Allied Petroleum petrol company agreed to front the rest of the construction costs and the station opened this weekend, Stuff.co.nz said.

No more road trips

Many residents described how the long drive had become a frustration.

"You've got to plan for it," local resident Fayln Hoggard told Radio New Zealand. "Somebody like myself would be taking three 20-litre containers in the back of the car on a weekly or fortnightly basis, as well as filling the car up."

Pongaroa Fuel Stop Committee member Mark Wheeler noted that by the time you got back from your epic road trip "you've used a quarter of the fuel you've put in the damned thing".

Mr Wheeler added that it had also become common to see tourists stranded in the area. "Everybody had to rally around see if they could fill a can to get them to wherever the nearest petrol stop would be," he said.

Better than Christmas

The initiative is being seen as a template to bring much-needed services to other remote areas of New Zealand.

Allied Petroleum's Alastair Tennent said:"I do have a suspicion that this won't be the last opportunity we have to do something like this. People realise that having a public fuel supply is pretty important."

However, the Pongaroa plan was nearly scuppered in the early stages, owing to rules that make it difficult for communities to secure funding from trusts and government grants if they're in partnership with commercial companies.

Pongaroa is now petitioning the government to change these rules to allow other small towns to follow in their footsteps.

After seeing the site lit up at night, Mr Wheeler enthused: "We said to each other that there's no Christmas lights or fireworks display that could look better than this right now."

Image copyright Radio New Zealand
Image caption The new petrol station will also mean no more stranded tourists, locals say

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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