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Operation Pipeline: Fuel disruption response role for new NZDF Defence Relationship Manager

Line of Defence Magazine, Spring 2017

GPCAPT Glenn Gowthorpe working out of the new Defence Auckland Business Hub.GPCAPT Glenn Gowthorpe working out of the new Defence Auckland Business Hub.


Located at the new Defence Auckland Business Hub, NZDF Defence Relationship Manager Auckland Group Captain Glenn Gowthorpe has been getting to know Auckland businesses and helping to resolve a ‘once in a lifetime’ fuel disruption, writes Nicholas Dynon.


GPCAPT Gowthorpe was appointed to the role of Defence Relationship Manager Auckland (DRMA) on 1st September 2017, coinciding with the launch of the new Defence Auckland Business Hub. Located at the Hub, the DRMA position reports to Chief Joint Defence Services, Charlie Lott.

The new role goes hand-in-hand with the Auckland Business Hub’s objective of supporting the building of partnerships with businesses and organisations in the Auckland area. “My job here involves working with industry and external stakeholders,” Glenn told Line of Defence, “including local government and all the central government agencies that have a footprint in the greater Auckland area.”

On Thursday 14th September, the 168km pipeline supplying petrol, diesel and jet-A1 fuel to Auckland from Marsden Point refinery in Northland was put out of action when it was discovered it had been damaged by a digger. It was Auckland’s only supply of jet fuel.

With supply cut for a projected two weeks, the disruption was due to cause flight cancellations out of Auckland Airport and a major fuel shortage for the city’s motorists.

In response to the fuel pipeline disruption, the Government set up a cross-government and industry Fuel Security Working Group coordinated by MBIE with a Chair from the Ministry of Transport. “With much to offer, the NZDF were considered to be a key member of the working group,” said Glenn. “In a group of fifteen representatives I was the only uniform at the table.”

“The terms of reference for the WG included providing a single source of truth on fuel supply and demand and formulating options and plans for what we were going to do to resolve the issue. We had a situation where everyone had to work together for the benefit of New Zealand.”

The Working Group met every day at 8:30am, starting with an operational update briefing before considering immediate requirements and future plans. After the initial four days of the disruption, it then met on an as-required basis, which included further contingency planning for a ‘worst case’ scenario.

“Defence was able to make a tangible difference and help out as a Force for NZ from Day One, just by being in the working group,” he noted.


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With the pipeline out of action, fuel had to be trucked into Auckland – something not routinely done. The sudden shift to moving Jet-A1 aircraft fuel by road meant that the industry did not have enough staff trained to efficiently carry out the task.

Aviation fuel is a very regulated industry, and our NZDF members are some of the very few in the country that have the qualifications to do the work.

“The NZDF was able to say ‘here’s our people and here’s our qualifications’, and literally the day NZDF personnel arrived they were inducted and working,” said Glenn. “Our fuel operators wanted to get in and do something to help New Zealanders, whether it was to keep Kiwis flying or maintaining resilience of the ground fuel network, they were extremely motivated.”

Another mitigation option tabled by the Working Group involved bringing a ship carrying aviation fuel into Wynyard Quarter, which required an aviation fuel filter system to be set up on site. The NZDF was able to supply this system and was able to help install and commission it.

“Coupled with my former role of Chief of Staff RNZAF Base Auckland, I fully understood the issues around engaging with our partners and the key resources that we could bring to bear,” Glenn commented.

“The fact that I was here as the DRMA and ready to go, all while understanding what we needed to achieve to support industry and be a force for New Zealand was a big plus.”

As part of the NZDF fuel conservation efforts, HQJFNZ cancelled all non-essential flying, while the two main RNZAF Bases at Whenuapai and Ohakea ceased drawing Jet-A1 fuel from industry partner Air BP.

According to Glenn, the NZDF received timely support from a wide range of partners.

“The US Air Force had a C-17 coming in to Whenuapai and we were able to talk with them before they arrived. As a result, they brought more fuel with them than planned and they altered their outbound route to conduct their 100,000 litre refuel outside of NZ en route to their destination.”

According to Glenn, in any major disaster or emergency the NZDF maintains a forward-leaning approach to providing support. His role is to make the networks and the contacts and to build trust so that the optimal response can be delivered.

“We haven’t historically been at the table early on in some of these scenarios, and if you’re not at the table you’re not part of the conversation, thus not able to help out quickly and efficiently

“I was able to make a large number of contacts as a result of my role in the incident, such as with Auckland Council and emergency management organisations, we are in a better position to help out during the next contingency, whatever that may be.

“What was really pleasing is that Government, industry and defence all put in the hard yards to make it work, we had a common goal,” he said.

Glenn likened the role of the NZDF in times of emergency to that of a first responder. It is that ultimately needs to back out and let industry take over in order to reconstitute for the next issue.

“We are very much a contingency based force with a wide skill and experience base supported with some unique equipment and resources,” he said. “Deciding when to withdraw from an emergency situation is a tough one because when you’re in there and doing a great job, people don’t want you to leave.”

“The incident showed the NZDF being very responsive and providing positive outcomes. It’s part of that NZDF culture of wanting to serve. Our people are fantastic.”


NZDF equipment and personnel Involved in Operation Pipeline

  • 20 x NZ Army heavy transport drivers – supporting the truck bridging of Jet-A1 fuel and ground fuels on the following routes: WN to Napier, Marsden Point to Auckland Airport, Wellington to Palmerston North, Mt Maunganui to Auckland.
  • 6 x RNZAF Aviation Refuel Operators – receipting the Jet-A1 fuel from trucks bridging the fuel in from Marsden Point to the Joint User Hydrant Installation (JUHI) at Auckland Airport. Working alongside Air BP staff, duties included defueling tankers, testing fuel quality and transferring fuel for use by the airlines.
  • HMNZS Endeavour – sailed to the vicinity of Marsden Point ready to load and move up to 4.8M litres of Diesel in an effort to increase the resilience of the ground fuel network and free up tankers and drivers to support the Jet-A1 bridging efforts.
  • Aviation Fuel Filter system – part of the NZDF Deployable Bulk Fuel Installation (DBFI) was installed at Wynyard fuel depot in order to filter the Jet-A1 fuel as it was loaded into industry trucks heading for JUHI.
  • Liaison and logistics staff in the National Crisis management centre to support the Government-led efforts.
  • Defence Relationship Manager Auckland as a key member of the MBIE-led Fuel Security Working Group charged with providing a cross-Government and Industry resolution to the pipeline disruption.
  • Numerous planning and operations staff at HQJFNZ planning, positioning and executing the NZDF response.

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