Chatham Islands. Photo / Flickr / Ville Miettinen

Chatham Residents Face Fuel Famine

Chatham Islands. Photo / Flickr / Ville Miettinen

A fuel crisis has gripped the Chatham Islands, after their only petrol station ran dry.

The shortage threatens to grind daily life to a halt for the island’s roughly 650 residents, with no gas for vehicles and essential machinery.

Normally, petrol supplies come via the MV Southern Tiare. But with the ship in dry-dock for repairs, that are taking longer than anticipated the island’s residents, located 860km east of Christchurch, are now stuck without fuel.

“As everyone knows, we’ve been unable to get a ship over from New Zealand for several weeks, which has seen us run out of petrol at the pumps currently managed by the council,” said the Chatham Islands Council. “We are doing everything we can to arrange an alternative resupply of fuel.”

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The council apologized for the inconvenience: “This will have [an impact] on everyone with petrol vehicles and machinery.”

This isn’t a new issue. The aging Southern Tiare has been a lifeline, but it’s 35 years old and needs regular maintenance. In 2023, the ship was out for months due to legal maintenance requirements, putting the island’s diesel supply in jeopardy.

“Essentially the lights would have gone out and that would have been disastrous,” Chatham Islands Mayor Monique Croon said at the time.

Farmers have also faced problems, having to cull stock because they couldn’t ship animals off the island on time due to the Tiare’s unreliability.

Croon told Newstalk ZB that authorities are looking for permanent alternatives to the Tiare, with the government promising $30 million for a replacement. They hope to secure a contingency vessel by early next week to bring in essential supplies.

Croon reassured that many residents had prepared for this, knowing the Tiare’s issues. “It’s just part of living on the Chathams unfortunately, and everyone that I know does their best to make sure that they have enough in stock and have enough supplies,” she said.

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