Delegates from all over Australia made their way to the Gold Coast last week to attend the ACAPMA National Conference & Expo 2015. Under the umbrella of the conference theme ‘Changing the Dynamics’, delegates were provided with a series of insights about the key economic, consumer and technological trends that are re-shaping the downstream petroleum industry in Australia.

Together with Platinum Sponsor, Arthur J Gallagher, ACAPMA conducted the 2015 Annual Conference and Expo at the Marriott Resort in the Gold Coast between 22 and 25 September 2015.

Operating under the theme ‘Changing the Dynamics’, the principal goal of the conference was to provide delegates with an appreciation of some of the factors that have recently shaped, and will continue to shape, the wholesale and retail fuels market in Australia.

“Most of the businesses that comprise our industry are working hard just to remain profitable – few have the time to actually look up and think about what is likely to happen in the future”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“Our industry is changing rapidly and we, as an industry association, would not be doing our job if we did not at least promote awareness of these changes so that businesses owners can plan ahead as appropriate”, said Mark.

The Conference kicked off with the Welcome Cocktail Party & Expo Opening. Sponsored by Arthur J Gallagher and attended by over 200 delegates, the event provided the opportunity for delegates to recount the last lap of the 2014 Bathurst 1000 with race winner Chaz Mostert – who graciously hung around after the formalities so that delegates could snap a photo with Chaz and the 2014 Bathurst 1000 trophy.

Wednesday morning saw the conference kick off on a more serious note with a presentation from Mr John Peters of the Commonwealth Bank. John provided a perspective on the national economic outlook to 2017 (click here for a copy). John’s key message was that the economic outlook is relatively sound and that our most significant challenge is to lift business and consumer confidence in the near term.

ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie then released the findings of ACAPMA’s First Monitor of Fuel Consumer Attitudes. Conducted by independent research firm Survey Matters, this survey canvassed the views of 1000 fuel consumers across Australia.

Analysis of the survey findings challenged the notion that consumer purchase behaviours were solely influenced by price, with nine out of every 10 consumers suggesting that they always or generally purchased fuel from the same outlet. This raised the question of whether the location of a site is just as influential as price in consumer purchase behaviours in Australia (Click here for copy of research).

Delegates also received presentations on electric vehicle recharging initiatives and listened to a somewhat whimsical debate about the future of LPG on the nation’s forecourts. The latter debate gave rise to the inevitable conclusion that removing LPG from the forecourts of the nation’s service station network might be a touch premature given exciting developments in LPG technologies for heavy vehicles.

The first day of the conference proper concluded with the White Pool Party. Washed inside by adverse weather, the main Ballroom was turned into a paradise of white drapes, feathered stilt walkers and fire dancers. Sponsored by PetroBonds, attendees were reportedly blown away by the atmosphere and energy in the room.

Day 2 of the Conference saw presentations on a series of legislative issues likely to affect our industry in the near term including: developments in transport legislation being considered by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal; changes in Environmental Legislation; and, developments in National Competition Policy.

The penultimate session was dedicated to the launch of National Petroleum Contractor Recognition Scheme (NPCRS) – an initiative designed to make it easier for fuel businesses to source contractors for infrastructure and maintenance works. More information about this scheme is provided in the following video (click here).

The last session involved a presentation from world-renowned futurist Mike McCallum of Global Foresight who provided a frank message to delegates – the world has already changed and we either need to change with it or be changed by it.

Mike’s presentation was followed by a presentation from Wayne Lamb of Cadway Projects who had used Mike’s insights into the future to paint a picture of what future retail fuel outlets might look like in the future (see related story).

“The entire conference was designed around a story about change – and how this change might be accommodated by our industry into the future”, said Mark

“It was interesting to watch the audience reaction to this last session on the future. Some dismissed the concept as being a bit too ‘way out’ while others suggested that they were already incorporating some elements in current designs for fuel outlets”, said Mark.

“Irrespective of your position, our industry – and the wider market in which we are operating – is changing. Within this context, I believe that we have a responsibility as an industry Association to communicate these changes so that our member businesses can make informed decisions about how they plan for business success in the future”, said Mark.

ACAPMA wishes to thank all our sponsors of the 2015 event including: Arthur J Gallagher (Platinum sponsor), UNIGAS and PetroBonds (Gold sponsors), New Sunrise Group (Silver Sponsor), and Bronze Sponsors Cadway Projects, Enviropacific, Husky, Karcher, Norton Rose Fulbright, Ron Finemore Transport and Tanknology.