Wakatipu tourism operators want a pioneering sustainable biodiesel initiative to survive – despite its uncertain future.
The award-winning project faces closure as its biofuel provider, problem-plagued Solid Energy, tries to sell its renewables division Biodiesel New Zealand in a bid to clear debt.
The local biodiesel pump at Lakeview Holiday Park – offering a blend of 95 per cent mineral diesel with five per cent used cooking oil – is a nationwide first and supplies a consortium of 80 vehicles from 35 tourism businesses.
It was spearheaded by Otago Polytechnic’s Centre for Sustainable Practice in 2010 and is supplied by Allied Petroleum.
The centre director Steve Henry says he’s concerned about the initiative’s viability.
“We’re going to do our best to make sure it doesn’t close but we can’t guarantee anything because it’s a volatile situation. It is a shame. It’s a cool initiative and we’re disappointed.”
Earlier this year the Government scrapped its biodiesel subsidy, worth 42.5 cents a litre, forcing the pump price up to match regular mineral diesel. It also meant the original blend of 20 per cent biofuel was cut to five per cent.
Kiwi Discovery and Queenstown Rafting boss Tim Barke wants to see it stay.
In July this year, his fleet of vehicles used up to 2500 litres of biodiesel a day.
“It’s worked really well for our business,” Barke says.
“We’ll be disappointed if it closes but we’re philosophical. We are confident the economic and political situation will get to a stage where it will be viable again.”
Ziptrek boss Trent Yeo says he’ll continue to support the initiative.
“It’s a shame. Political uncertainty doesn’t help when businesses are trying to make good sustainable choices.”
A spokesman for Biodiesel NZ says the company is talking to interested parties during the sale process but can’t confirm whether a sale will actually take place.
Henry, in charge of the Queenstown biodiesel consortium, says if Biodiesel NZ does wind up, there are North Island operators who could step in – but it would be up to Allied.
Allied Petroleum business development manager Brett Haldane says Allied is open to enter negotiations with any new owner.
“Allied Petroleum remains keen to offer the choice of a greener diesel to businesses and fleet operators.”