“NZ: 100% Pure Rip-Off”

Oh dear, bet the guys who coined the “100% Pure NZ” are cringing right now. It will be interesting to see how well the brand’s image survives this latest onslaught on the slogan that lends itself so easily to abuse. It is currently being used to highlight how expensive New Zealand has become.

It all started with an article in the NZ Herald under the header “NZ: 100% Pure Rip-off. Rip off New Zealand?” written by Peter Bills, an international writer for Independent News & Media.

Guys, just 14 months out from the 2011 Rugby World Cup, you are sleep-walking into acquiring such an unwanted reputation worldwide.

The price of ordinary, everyday articles and living costs horrify me in this country. I’ve been here, admired the place, loved the people since 1975. I wasn’t even put off by my first ever weekend in New Zealand – 17cm of rain in 24 hours and sitting shin-deep in water at Eden Park as the All Blacks aqua-planed past Scotland in that infamous 1975 test.

But what I see today is of far, far greater concern. This place is becoming one of the most expensive I visit, one giant rip-off. And most of you seem unaware of it.”

We think not, thousands of migrants struggle to make ends meet in New Zealand, many of them attracted by baiting NZ is cheap’ campaigns,’  such as that run in Singapore recently.

“What I find here amazes me. So much so that I don’t know how most ordinary folk manage to balance their budgets. True, petrol is much cheaper than in Britain. But in just about every other field, hotels, car hire, restaurant food, wine, clothes or whatever, you’re the victims of massive overcharging.

Of course, it’s always difficult to compare like with like when speaking of different countries but this is an overall impression from someone from Europe.

I sat down for a simple lunch at a restaurant on Auckland’s waterfront last week. The sun was shining, the setting fabulous. A glass of splendid New Zealand sauvignon blanc was a delight – until we saw the price. $28 for two ordinary sized glasses? You don’t pay that in Paris or London, unless you go somewhere like the George V in Paris or London’s Ivy restaurant.”

But ordinary folk don’t balance their budgets. Many are up to their ears in debt, working two jobs and sending their kids to school hungry – 230,000 children are living in unacceptable poverty in New Zealand. As for those who like to maintain lavish lifestyles? well, there’s always good old fashioned fraud and theft to fall back on. Little wonder that crime is on the rise.

“Now let’s be fair. The NZ dollar has appreciated significantly against the pound over the course of the past 12-18 months. When I last visited NZ it was $2.40 to £1. Today, it is around $2.04. But does that explain a growing number of instances where an overseas visitor felt totally ripped off?

And there is growing evidence that it is chiefly the cities of this country who are leading this “grab what you can, make a killing” attitude towards visitors. If that is indeed the case, then it is the country areas, the less populated centres, who will suffer most.

Take car hire. Am I the only visitor to New Zealand who has ever decided that it would be better to drive from Auckland to Wellington and stop for a couple of nights somewhere to see the North Island? It hardly struck me as a revolutionary idea, yet this set me up as a target for just about every major hire car firm in Auckland.

Hertz demanded an outrageous $300 drop-off fee if I wanted to leave the car in Wellington. Yet isn’t that what 90 per cent of visitors would do if they were touring, especially going on to the South Island? Companies such as Avis, Europcar and others were demanding only slightly smaller amounts. Some didn’t even have a drop facility in Wellington…

…Parking in one city centre carpark in Wellington this week was $9 an hour, $39 for four hours. In Monte Carlo, the first hour’s parking at public carparks is, er, free.

Then there are the hotels. This weekend in Wellington at the InterContinental, a king room costs $410. Now it is rugby test weekend and it has club facilities but even so. £205 a room? You might pay that in New York or London but not in most European capitals. And just imagine what on earth such a room will cost on the weekend of October 8/9 next year when Wellington hosts two of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

The capital city costs a fortune and it’s not just an Englishman who thinks so. In the winter of 2008, in the company of several visiting South African writers, we sat down in a harbourside restaurant. When the menus arrived, we were so horrified by the prices we all got up and walked out. It was daylight robbery.

Last week, at Kermadec in Auckland, one main lunch dish was $33. In the evening, entrees were $25, mains around $42 with desserts $18. The wines were equally expensive. In a Takapuna restaurant, also last week, a bottle of Stoneleigh pinot noir cost $48. I could take you to a dozen restaurants in Nice where you’d drink a perfectly good French wine for nothing near that amount….”

Welcome to New Zealand, 100Pure. So long as someone is prepared to pay those sort of prices people are going to charge them. It’s a free market economy. Perhaps more people should be “horrified by the prices” and ‘get up and walk out’ and spend less time being mollified by the scenery? Whilst they’re absorbed in gazing at those vistas, searching for the lifestyle and dangling from the end of bungy cords they’ll not feel their pockets emptying until it’s too late (In NZ, everything – even the scenery – comes with a price tag)

“Does any of this matter? After all, it’s only tourists who might get fleeced and they won’t be back every year (ed. only tourists?! quite a few immigrants would take issue with that remark) And the Rugby World Cup which is being held here next year might be the last time it is hosted exclusively by New Zealand. So hey guys, grab what you can in hiked up profits, make a fortune and smile all the way to the bank. Right? No, wrong, dead wrong. (ed. why not? it’s been going on for 150 years and has worked just fine)

New Zealanders will be dumb if they even think of such a philosophy. The World Cup ought to be an event that showcases the whole country to visitors from every corner of the globe. They should go home extolling the virtues of this land. Think long term, six or even 16 years of profits on the back of that scenario, not a money grab operation spanning six weeks which will persuade many visitors never to return.

Already, the word is getting out in an international sense that New Zealand is getting expensive. The fact is, you just can’t afford to allow that image to take root. You’re too far away from the rest of the world to afford such a scenario. In Paris, Rome, London or New York they can get away with that purely due to population numbers in those parts of the world. It is very different here. International travellers are not fools; fewer will come if New Zealand is known as too expensive…” read the whole article here

New Zealand draws most of its international travellers from Australia, most of them just a few hours flight time away from New Zealand. Other fans from wider afield are said to be basing themselves in cities like Sydney and plan to fly in and out for matches, or watch the games in 3D cinemas, outdoor venues, bars etc.  There’s only so much that can be done in New Zealand during winter and who’d want to hang around for longer than they’d have to?

Some of the visiting teams may decide to do the same. In September last year the Springboks decided to give ‘boring Hamilton’ a miss and jet in from the Gold Coast, Australia, for a match. How many teams will do the same next year is anyone’s guess but who will blame them for wanting a bit of sun, sea and sand?

The Herald today published another contribution on this subject, this time from former All Black Justin Marshall who agreed that New Zealand is expensive and not just for visitors, he admitted that he’d ignored the warnings from friends that New Zealand was more expensive than Britain:

When former All Black halfback Justin Marshall left for England five years ago, a litre of petrol cost about $1.30. He remembers a flat white coffee costing about $3 and a beer at his local about $6. But since his return to New Zealand about a month ago, Marshall has noticed his British pounds are not going as far as he had hoped. “I think five years ago you could get a coffee for around $3 or $3.50 but I wouldn’t think there would be many places you’d get one for under $4,” he said. “Petrol is now close to $1.80 a litre and if you’re drinking quality lagers in a pub, a lot of the bars are charging up towards the $10 mark. “It’s expensive and something you can’t help but notice.”

Marshall, 36, agreed with rugby correspondent Peter Bills that New Zealand was an expensive country – and not just for visitors. Bills – sounding a caution ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup – said the prices of everyday articles had “horrified” him and Kiwis were “victims of massive overcharging”. He said New Zealand was becoming “one giant rip-off”.

Marshall, an 81-test All Black who is now a Sky TV rugby comments man, said his rugby friends had also warned him that the cost of living had become higher in New Zealand than in Britain. “All of my mates who had come home kept saying to me that I needed to be aware that the expense of living in New Zealand is something you really have to take into account … It really has become an expensive country to live in.”

He said his weekly grocery spend in Britain was between £150 and £200 ($323-$431) to feed his family of five. Here, the bill is $400 to $500 a week.

“I’ve really noticed it with things like cheese, milk and bread and butter … When I was in the UK I bought a leg of imported New Zealand lamb for 17 quid [$36.60]. I bought the same thing here and it was close to $40. “Even when you take the exchange rate into account, it still costs more to buy our own meat here.”

New Zealand Beef & Lamb chief executive Rod Slater said Marshall was “pretty much on the mark” and said prices for export lamb in Britain, our biggest market, were generally “on a par” with prices here. Mr Slater said this parity was partly because of New Zealanders paying GST on food whereas consumers in Britain did not. “So that’s 12.5 per cent right there.

“The other thing is a huge part of the lamb sold in the UK is frozen, whereas we get it fresh here. Our currencies have come closer together as well. I mean, not long ago it was $3 to one pound; now it’s two to one, so that has made a difference, too.” Marshall said retailers, hoteliers and people in the hospitality industry were in a Catch-22 situation with next year’s Rugby World Cup looming.

But he agreed with Cup chief executive Martin Snedden, who expressed concerns that rorting visitors could damage the country’s reputation. “You want people to come to NZ and see it for what it is,” Marshall said, “but in the same breath we want to make money … It’s an opportunity to maximise businesses and maximise what New Zealand has to offer and people are going to be here anyway.

“It’s very difficult to pull away from that opportunity when it is so evidently going to be in your face but you want those people who come here to go back to the UK and not talk about how difficult they found it to find cheap hotels or how expensive it was to go out for dinner.”… read more here

Little wonder that well over 500,000 New Zealanders live in Australia and a similar number in Britain, they know when they’re onto a good thing.

Enough of our thoughts on this. Let’s take a wider view and look at the responses this article drew from people who live, or have lived, in New Zealand and see what prospective visitors and migrants can learn from their comments.

This is a sample from the  TravelMSN site where there was a massive response on a very emotive topic:

NZ a giant rip-off?

kiwi rip off
Posted by: Nick, auckland, on 19/07/2010 9:50:59 PM
I am a recently returned Kiwi and about to become a recently departed one. New Zealand has become, very sadly, ridiculously expensive and there seems little reason for it other than blatant profiteering. the result is an escalation in crime and an influx of the rich. I feel terribly sad to have lost my homeland and very let down by the politicians who are responsible yet unaccountable. If anyone is likely to save this country I for one think it will be the Maori and good luck to them, they are fighting for the values the pakeha seem to have abandoned and I feel ashamed.

Land of Milk & Honey?
Posted by: ndawoodz,Wellington, on19/07/2010 10:38:16 AM
I wish I could disagree…but alas! Single mother of two, prices for food are ridiculous! With pride I have often said, “this is the land of milk & honey”. Seemingly the best of our milk & honey etc gets exported overseas & foreigners get NZ quality produced goods, for cheaper than us!! What!!?? This is seriously not good, us that live here contribute to our economy & I am now left wondering…for what?. The rest of my family had moved to Oz many years ago, so when I visit them I often spend hours in their supermarkets looking at the huge array of variety & prices. The Australians & co are definitely spoilt for choices & prices. Of course us Kiwis are not happy about…but we don’t get any options…Just do what your told! Hmmmmn maybe another family off to Oz soon!…great economy, realistic wages & apparently cheaper NZ produce!

Have to agree
Posted by: goldie, Auckland, on 19/07/2010 9:02:16 AM
Having just moved back to Auckland after 10 yrs living in Europe, the USA and Hong Kong I have to say that I agree mostly that NZ is over priced. Also the quality of things like clothing is crap here compaired to the UK and the USA. I have been looking to set up a house and the choices in furniture and beding etc are pretty poor here. I have just ordered a whole lot of 100% cotton beding from the UK at a much cheaper price (including shipping) than I can get here in NZ. I will be buying most of my clothes from the UK and the USA as the colour choices here (black or red neither of which I wear) are so limited that I can go into every clothing shop in the likes of St Lukes and not find anything in a colour that I would wear. Also most of the clothes we get here are synthetic fabric and I only wear natural fibers. Food here is also very expensive. My supermarket shop is about twice as expensive here as it was in the UK. As much as I love NZ I do find it to be overpriced!

i agree
Posted by: Gemz, Wellington nz , on 19/07/2010 7:02:59 AM
I am a english lass, lived in nz for almost 6 years now and i agree with the reporter. Houses are cheaper here, cars and petrol but thats about it. Clothes are very expensive and i do not agree that they are better quality. Food is totally over priced, its cheaper to buy new zealand lamb in britain then here……what the hell is up with that. Wine is over priced here everything is, they seem to sell nz products to other countrys for much cheaper and then make us pay prices through the roof. Its stupid. New zealand is a beautiful country and i love living here, can hardly afford to live here as the ongoing problem with price rising and wages not rising. Somthing must be done.

NZ a giant rip off?
Posted by: Linds, Te Pahu, on 19/07/2010 5:32:59 AM
Having just returned from a trip overseas to both Italy and the UK and I can vouch for certainty that in NZ we are ripped off for food and clothes in our shops. But then European countries don’t seem to add the equivalent of GST to food or clothing as these are, rightly, considered essentials for everyday living. So why do we put up with this tax on essentials in NZ? As for accommodation, car hire, eating out and wine, NZ is cheaper but then our average incomes are, I reckon, over 40% down on most European countries. One thing most noticeable about the European countries we visited is the abundant affluence as manifested by the huge numbers of new cars on the roads plus the shops, restaurants and pubs were mostly full of customers spending freely. They seem to have fully recovered from the recession.

11 thoughts on ““NZ: 100% Pure Rip-Off”

  1. i live in nz on a farm all my life and i think what ur saying is true but only in the big citys only people that live in auckland likes it there so if u come out and go to the little town ships u will see a total different country. u can buy a good bottle of wine for $30 st a shop

  2. http://move2nz.wordpress.com/2011/05/.

    All you have to do is get pregnant, get sick, split with your partner (even as a result of domestic abuse), or be made redundant and you too could be instantly win the title of ‘overstayer’. Your kids blocked from school, blocked from working, no benefits or services to help you and vilified as a result of your new title.

    It’s actually easier than that. Just find yourself surplus to requirements, get a promotion, get ripped off by a university or get stiffed by your employer. You can even be labelled an overstayer and deported because the immigration department takes too long to process your visa.

    Overstayer has become a useful term. In the past immigration would listen to each situation and take a sensible, compassionate approach. This appears to have stopped with some pretty inhumane decisions being enforced, but no one will raise a cry because it’s a good thing to get rid of overstayers, right?.

    Migration to New Zealand has become like a high trapeze act. The trouble is that the people flying through the process don’t realise that the safety net has been removed. Just one tiny issue can see an applicant labelled overstayer overnight and given the stark choice to leave New Zealand or be deported.

    • but the NZ government keeps on telling lies to prospective migrants bringing people here only to take their money and take advantage of them, shame!

  3. “Studies show a great percentage of migrants lose their health after being and living in NZ due to poor health system comparable to third world countries even worse”

    I have seen this to be true, the migrants losing their health very rapidly here. I would like to know exactly what studies these are. Do you have these? references?

  4. This is a trivial concern, but we thought sizes were standard with international food chains; however, when we visited New Zealand, we were surprised to see that the portions were smaller, soggy, often withered as if they had been sitting for awhile, fries were often oversalted, and very little care was taken in preparation or in cleaning of the tables. The tables were always dirty. We often had to wipe them down ourselves with a serviette from the self-serve bar. It is the only country where we found this. We found the Subway chain to be the same: tiny, withered soggy sandwiches, messy tables, inferior ingredients to others in the chain elsewhere. Then we were reading about serving sizes in the Internet, to check our perception, and happened across someone else who had noticed the same thing. And she took pictures!

  5. Saw this person “sebcue”‘s warning on travelexpertguide.org forum for Australia/New-Zealand at 347138.htm and thought it well stated. It never ever fails to amaze me how similar people’s stories are about New Zealand. It is a relief to hear you are not alone in being screwed but. So many are fleeing the UK and US because of the dire warnings of collapse. They would be fleeing from the frying pan into the fire, they will be eaten alive after every last one of their pennies has been hoovered out of their pockets, in New Zealand. Plesae do not come, you stupid stupid migrants!

    “Dear one…the problems you have mentioned about UK will be the same in New Zealand..NHS, poor wages, immigration all the same and even worse in New Zealand….New Zealand has a very poor health service and wages are poor….I think you can live in New Zealand for a short period of time and then decide….I lived there and then after having so many bad experiences I left for ever….but it will be different for everyone…this is just my opinion:
    NZ has a kind of social complexity that you do not encounter in any other country.
    There is a strong bullying culture at work environment especially towards foreigners.
    It is a small isolated country. So what you think the major source of income is. Of course it is agriculture and tourism.The problem is because salaries are low most educated people leave for better income overseas. This creates a big problem.. As I said it is a small country.So what do you think people might feel when most young generation emigrate. Well they feel they are invaded by foreigner migrants especially Asians, Indians and others. For many years white people dominated the country and Maories were lower class citizens. When the white young generation is emigrating the country, fear of losing the power and fear of losing the working class (age 16-45) can cause a hostile environment towards new comers….If you spend some time with them you will see how much they adore and admire themselves and their younger ones compared to other nationalities no matter where they are from…..This is a dominant culture…even if a kiwi commits a crime if the victim is not a main stream New Zealander the chances that lawyers and justice protect their own people is quiet high. Because they want to keep their people and stop them from leaving. This culture exists in all of them .Almost all of them…politicians, doctors, lawyers, taxi drivers, farmers…..almost all of them maybe because they want to teach them to value their country and stay….however because tourism is their biggest source of income over many many years of dealing with migrants and foreigners they know they need migrants for their money….I have never seen any other nationality in the world being able to rip off so skilfully as kiwis. They make a slave out of you. They make you work for free. Most skilled migrants are young, motivated, and energetic and have some saving. They come to NZ to make a better life. They spend some of their best years of life, the first five years after leaving their country to work hard to achieve nothing instead. I have seen many families break up; I have seen many of them get depressed. A lot of them leave NZ after a few years of putting up with abuse, some leave for Australia; some go back to their home country. Some of the migrants who have some kind of support network and can stand the abuse or work as self-employed may stay and instead the way they cope with this culture is they turn to be like their kiwi abusive mates. I have seen some of them start cheating, stealing and exploiting others to be able to mentally integrate into the society around them and of course some of them do none of these and stay the way they were but in a less motivated, depressed slavery mood. Ironically when foreigners get ripped off by kiwis they get blamed for not being careful. I have seen young rich Japanese students who get bashed and their money get stolen but instead they will get criticized of being careless. Kiwi students and young generation have this mentality that foreigners are rich, are pain free and they have their money because their mummy and daddy gives them their money and they do not work hard for it so they deserve their money to be taken away from them because this is the kiwi land and if these foreigners want to stay here they should help us with our economy. We are the best people in this world, our country is the most beautiful country in the world, our government is the least corrupted government of the world (of course that is the other way round), our graduates are the brightest in the world, our poo and wee is from gold and because of all these all non-kiwis should adore us and pay us lots and lots of money because we deserve it. New Zealanders are very jealous towards Australians. You just need to tell them how better Australia is compared to NZ. Then you get a sheep thrown to your head and they fart angrily into your face. I have seen some of these kiwis when they come to Australia they brag about their country to other nationalities to encourage them to visit their country and this way to help their highly dependent economy. Some of them say funny lies, For example they say they have lived in many countries all around the world and nowhere else is like New Zealand , The best wheater, the best health system, the best education, the best and most friendly people, no corruption, no crime, affordable and great lifestyle, etc, etc. The funny thing is some of them claim they were Aussies and now live in NZ because Australia had lots of crime, Australians were racist, Australia was this and that and NZ is the best place on earth and even the whole entire universe to live! If you do not know them well you poor naïve person will believe all these and if you know them well somehow you just feel sorry.
    However about 35% of the population rely on social benefits (a lot of elderly left alone by their children, a lot on sickness benefits and lots skill less Maories), 70% of the medical school graduates leave the country after 2 years of finishing their studies and only one third of foreign doctors remain in this country to work due to poor working conditions. You can imagine how dangerous it can be to become sick in this country. Studies show a great percentage of migrants lose their health after being and living in NZ due to poor health system comparable to third world countries even worse. Although they claim their country is safe but if you live there you feel how dangerous it is : high bullying rate at work, constant ripping off, constant pressure from local main stream New Zealanders to suck more blood from you and poor health system and poor service due to lack of skilled professionals.
    Because most migrants leave after a few years the government tried to make it longer to get NZ citizenship to keep them in NZ longer. They just try to make everything longer, stretching the time they can suck up more blood. They make it more difficult for everyone to get entry to the country just to make them more eager and make their own value higher. It is just like a rouge trade person who makes you wait and run after him before he comes to your house and does all the repairing and asks you a lot of money. It is just a way of torture to take whatever they can from anyone who goes to their country because this is the only way they can have income. Otherwise except exporting agricultural products there is nothing else to be able to produce significant profit. The number one source of money over the last few decades were international students, when the number of students and skilled migrants drops they do every effort to attract them into the country and then just drag them from here to there to take their money out of their pocket and how cunning and skilled they are in this industry God knows. For example, they stupefy these students and ask them to take papers which are more expensive .You just will be amazed by their ability. Nearly almost everyone knows some tricks when it comes to meeting other nationalities. They are superficially friendly to get your trust and make a fool out of you. Because the nature is green, beautiful and peaceful a high percentage of new comers get fooled… The best preys are some naïve idiot foreigners from third world countries. They know how to bully people around the globe if they can to be able to shake them till all the money falls out of their pockets.
    If you live in small city after a while you realise how much they are dependent on the money foreigners bring in .You just feel you are constantly have to feed them and let them suck and that will never end. If you are skilled you have to work for long hours with low pay, what they claim is our pay is low but we offer a great lifestyle. They have very particular ways of satisfying you instead of low pay, for example they give you the power to control others, greasingly admire you, superficially make friend with you, respect you and the list goes on and on….Then when it comes to daily life activities you gradually realise your dangerous position. If you have a computer problem for example: first of all there are not much good professionals to know what they are doing secondly they ask you a fortune for just doing nothing. I remember I had to leave my computer in a shop for some technical problems, he just did nothing, absolutely nothing and then asked me to come and pick up the computer, when I got home, I just felt hopeless. Where could I go to complain and how can I prove it. I have already paid and there was no way to claim it back. I decided to move out and sell some of my furniture. The guy from a tender centre came and picked up all my belongings and told me he would sell it. I waited weeks after weeks and had to pay a lot for mobile bill to ring him. But he never sent me back any money. I wrote a complaint to the local court but again if I wanted to do anything I had to pay twice to lawyers and the court itself to solve the problem. As they had no customer to get money from….It was ridiculous. If you sit among them you just feel sick. They just admire themselves and fart on you and then you feel your head is spinning and you have to leave.

    Tahini Raving Weirdo

    We’ve moved here from the UK also, not too long ago, for much the same reasons. While it is true that NZ also has its problems with all the things you’ve mentioned, the intensity of that is far less obtrusive than it used to be in the UK.
    Yes, we do get burglars here, quite a few, in fact – but they aren’t as dangerous as the fellows who do this in the UK.
    It’s still only planet earth here, but on a far more good natured level than most other places I know.
    It is perfectly feasible to bring in elderly parents once you’ve lived here for three years. During that time, you could certainly get your mother and stepfather to visit NZ repeatedly, and if it goes the way it normally goes with these visits, I’m pretty sure your stepfather’s opinion will eventually sway in favour of moving here.
    We are certainly not evangelizing for people to move here, but all our visitors who’ve ever visited us from Britain, Canada, Germany, Austria, France, the UK, and US, have by now filed their EOIs and want to move here.
    I guess it just does this to people.
    Good luck with your decision – keep in mind that it’s also your life, and while it is nice to be so considerate toward your family, you’ll be here longer than they might. And where will that be then? UK or NZ…? The immigration service awards points till you’re 43. “

    • From what I understand, people who take in homestay students have a very good incentive to falsify figures (the cost of boarding the student), as they get reimbursed by the government.
      I’m not sure how much checking the government does on this, vs. the benefits fraud.
      And then there is the insufferable attitude that foreign students are “abusing the system”, when it is the people who are getting money without due diligence, that should be carefully checked out.

  6. One style writer for a men’s magazine, Andrew Williams, said the other week “I think if I lived there I would go off my rocker”. Style, for him, is “a frame of mind, not just a state of dress”. If you want to see the article, it is in mensflair.com called “Thoughts on New Zealand”. There are some candid comments along with the predictable Kiwi backlash about the relative attractiveness of NZ vs UK females. One major reason you do not see people dressing with style in “Paradise” was articulated by ColourfulGuyDrowning in the comments section when he said “In all honesty, when I first moved to Auckland from the US 11 years ago I thought Kiwi guys dressed shockingly bad also. However, after being here awhile I understand why they do: Really nice clothes are shockingly expensive in NZ and the inexpensive local stuff is horrible”.

Comments are closed.