By OSCAR PERRI
Alice Springs is the most expensive town of its size in Australia to run a vehicle, according to the Automobile Association of the Northern Territory (AANT), with high fuel prices taking up a big chunk of that extra cost.
And United Petroleum, a partner with AANT whose members get a fuel discount at participating service stations across the Territory, says they will push on with their plans to build two more servos in Alice.
United CEO David Szymczack says the company will apply for a new development permit after their extension application was recently rejected by the Development Consent Authority.
“We built 50 new service stations in Australia last year, and nowhere else in the country have we had such a level of planning issues. It is an extraordinary situation,” he said.
“Generally when you have an issue with a council such as this in other places in Australia you go to the council, you meet with them and you say well this is what we’re trying to do, how do we how do we sort this out.
“You have a meeting to come to some sort of agreement about what you can do, and off you go and you get to build your development.”
CEO Anthony Hill says that in Katherine, which has about half of the number of AANT members than Alice Springs, their members saved $4713 in April, compared to $3895 in Alice from this deal.
He says that their 2,000 members in Alice Springs will be “missing out” on better fuel prices if United Petroleum’s plan for two new servos is not allowed to go ahead.
“I don’t know if it’s political or what it is blocking things down there, but it’s ridiculous.
“We talk about wanting infrastructure projects and the need for local jobs and everything else.
“Projects like this are doing that as well as creating competition in the local market, so it really needs to happen.”
Mr Szymczack says it seems like Alice Springs Town Council have been working against them for the last five years of the project.
In an email response, Council stated they “had serious concerns around traffic management and safety, in particular with the Schwartz Crescent intersection being the main thoroughfare for St Philips’ students. That’s the reason behind Council not supporting the initial application.
“Council always welcomes new developments to Alice Springs if they are mutually beneficial for the whole town.
“We expect that United Petroleum will lodge an updated application based on DCA’s decision, taking into consideration changes to the Schwartz Crescent intersection determined by DIPL’s transport division. If and when that application comes through, we will judge it on its merit.”
Forking out extra for fuel is not necessarily how it has to be in Alice Springs, and according to the government and industry there are solutions to the problem.
Mid last year the NT government’s Public Accounts Committee conducted a thorough investigation into the price of fuel in the Territory, particularly in Darwin and Alice Springs.
The committee found concern in the fuel market in Alice, as reductions in retail prices in Darwin were not reflected as they would be expected to in Alice Springs.
“Retail fuel prices in Alice Springs were slower to respond to reductions in the wholesale price, and have very rarely looked competitive,” read the reports findings.
“The high level data on fuel prices in Alice Springs and other Territory regions raises significant questions regarding whether those markets operate fairly.
“However, those questions are not easily answered. Issues around changing costs and decreasing volumes mean that more detailed data is required before firm conclusions can be drawn.”
The committee found that better public information on fuel prices is key to fostering competition and driving prices down.
PLAN below: The proposed service station’s lay-out at the disputed Schwartz Crescent / Stuart Highway intersection.