Gas to rocket

BY Belinda scott

OUCH!

That's the reaction from Coffs Coast residents to fuel prices which have rocketed up by 10-12c in the last three weeks.

The price hike is dragging about $10 a week out of the wallets of families like the Andersons of Emerald Beach.

Allan Anderson said he filled the tank of his Toyota Landcruiser once a week and usually handed over $50. This week he handed over $60.

That keeps his big diesel 4WD going for a week's worth of normal family trips, including work, shopping and appointments.

But Mr Anderson, who likes to tinker with old cars, says these days he 'doesn't go far' in his early-model Commodore or old Valiant because of the price of lead-free super, which was yesterday 113.9c a litre in Coffs Harbour.

Another motorist, a young father who has moved into a new family home on acres north-west of Coffs Harbour, said yesterday he had just traded his fuel-efficient Commodore sedan for a Mitsubishi Challenger, a medium-sized petrol 4WD.

He said his decision was driven by the fact the family had moved to the country; he had friends who enjoyed 4WD outings and the change will provide more room for the new baby on the way as well as items like the pram.

But petrol prices still played a role in his decision.

"I did actually take that into consideration and did not go for the real bigger ones," he said yesterday.

Allan and Margaret Tozer say stay-at-homes whingeing about the price of fuel don't know how lucky they are.

Mr and Mrs Tozer have just returned to their Emerald Beach home after four months spent roaming the open spaces of the continent by car and caravan.

Mrs Tozer said their four-month fuel average was $1.20-$1.30 a litre, with the top price of $1.48 a litre paid at the Heartbreak Hotel near Borroloola in the Northern Territory's Gulf country; $1.41 the going price on the opposite side of Australia as they crossed the Nullarbor Plain, dropping back to a 'heavenly' $1.06 a litre in the Barossa Valley. Allan Tozer said he paid $130 for petrol for one day's travel on the Nullarbor.

"When you're on the road you have no choice ? you pay or you stay," Allan said.

"So eventually it goes out of your mind and you just worry about breaking down." The couple made the trip with friends who have converted their car to use gas, but Allan Tozer said there was little difference between fuel costs for the two vehicles, while his friend had had difficulty finding gas in central Australia.

Their biggest fuel worries were wind on the car-caravan combination, which on occasions pushed up fuel consumption to critical levels and poor-quality fuel in some areas, which dragged the car's performance to worrying depths.

Retail prices up

ROCKETING petrol prices are already making their way into the retail chain.

Barbara Gleave, who owns and operates Coffs Harbour Produce with her husband Hedley, said the fluctuating fuel levy on the transport bill from their major haulier had just gone up for the second time this year.

"Four or five per cent on the cost of freight all adds up at the end of the day onto prices," Mrs Gleave said.

Coffs Harbour Produce has not increased its own local freight delivery prices, but least one Coffs Harbour firm, which currently offers free local deliveries, is now considering charging its customers to deliver.

But in the car showroom, salesmen are seeing no diminution of the national obsession with four-wheel-drives.

Bellbowrie Motors sales representative Dion Dawes said he kept looking for signs people wanted smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, but so far he wasn't seeing it and the hefty Nissan Patrol was still selling strongly.

Shoppers can chip a few cents



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