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Pongaroa fuelling up

Pongaroa resident Wright Broughton, Tararua Deputy Mayor Alan Benbow, Allied Petroleum regional manager Paul Peetoom, and Pongaroa Fuel Stop Incorporated Society chairman David Monk. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

No one knows the value of petrol accessibility more than the people of Pongaroa.

The residents of the remote rural township were out in full force on Monday as the first sod was turned at the construction site of what will be Pongaroa’s only petrol station.

It has been about two-and-a-half years since the township, a 90-minute drive from Masterton, has had a petrol station — its last one closed in 2015, forcing residents to travel almost an hour to Pahiatua or Dannevirke to fuel up.

Since then, residents have been working to bring fuel back to the area, and thanks to a partnership with NZ-owned Allied Petroleum, the dream is about to be fulfilled.

Members of The Pongaroa Fuel Stop Incorporated Society (PFSIS) were beaming as about 100 people gathered for the sod-turning ceremony, and a giant sheep-shaped notice board had kept the community informed of the time and date of the event.

PFSIS chairman David Monk said while they had only shifted a spade of soil that day, “that soil contains a hidden amount of work already done by everyone involved in the project, and signals that over the next week, construction will proceed at pace”.

He said it was expected that the opening of the completed Fuel Stop would be celebrated in August.

“Early last century, on this site, stood a boarding house where travellers on their long journey between Masterton and Napier could stop to refuel and refresh themselves,” he said.

“So, it seems appropriate that nearly 100 years later, we are building a fuel station to provide a similar service for today’s travellers.”

The land on which the Fuel Stop will be built was donated by the Broughton family, of Pongaroa.

Wright Broughton, who blessed the project said it was wonderful to see the space would be utilised by the community again.

“Over the years there have been two boarding houses here. The first one burned down, and the second one they built, became our family home in the mid-1940s,” he said.

“This is where we as a family grew up, and it does hold a few memories for us.”

He said the house was dismantled in 1964.

The total cost of the project is $555,134, with the Pongaroa community share amounting to $245,000.

A funding shortfall was met by the Tararua District Council, and Allied Petroleum has fronted up with the remaining share of costs.

Allied Petroleum Lower North Island regional manager Paul Peetoom said the project was born from the “true partnership” between PFSIS and Allied Petroleum, and the determination of every party involved.

“The fact that we are standing here today proves that the PFSIS has succeeded in raising the required funds for their portion of the project.

“In return for their input, the Pongaroa community will be paid a commission on every litre sold to put back into the community.”

Mr Peetoom said as far as he was aware, this was the first project of its kind in New Zealand where a community had formed a partnership with a large commercial company to operate a business to help fund district organisations.

“Allied Petroleum has a slogan which is, ‘Never run out’,” Mr Peetoom said.

“It’s not only about never running out of fuel, it’s about never running out on your mates, never running out on your community, and never running out on responsibilities.

“To see a new Fuel Stop rise from what is just a paddock … is what that is all about.”

Tararua mayor Tracey Collis was unable to attend the ceremony, but her deputy Allan Benbow spoke on her behalf.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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