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. 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!
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.