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Rural communities under threat

Rural communities under threat

The Government must involve itself directly in the negotiations over the supply of fuel to independent service stations, according to National Party Commerce spokesman Brian Connell.

He is appealing to Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel to insist the Commerce Commission take a close look at what appears to be the anti-competitive behaviour of BP in dealing with the 140 independently owned service stations that sell the BP brand

"There is a responsibility to ensure that competitive fuel services Zare provided in rural communities," says Mr Connell.

"As it stands, the independent service station owners feel they are being given Hobson's choice to purchase future fuel supplies directly from Gasoline Alley Supplies (g.a.s.) and adopt g.a.s. branding. The independents have been offered no terms for discussion and no chance to negotiate. They've been told 'This is what will happen. End of story.'

"This contrasts sharply to comments from the director of g.a.s., Phil Murray. He said that the 140 independently owned and operated BP petrol stations would be offered the opportunity to switch to his company's branding and supply system. There is a clear difference between an opportunity and a demand!

"This is an extremely anti-competitive move by BP and g.a.s. which will reduce the range of choice available to our motorists. The inability to choose an alternate supplier means they risk costs which will hinder their ability to compete," Mr Connell says.

"If independent stations cannot make their own decisions, it will seriously affect their ability to offer competitively priced petrol to rural and provincial users. Closures will mean major job losses and large areas being left unserviced, with major flow-on effects to local farms, businesses and communities.

"These stations are the lifelines of our rural communities," warned Mr Connell.

"If these stations close, jobs will go with them. If we want to safeguard our rural areas, which are still the powerhouse of our economy, then we must ensure access to competitively priced fuel," he says.

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