NZ really expensive, says All Black

By James Ihaka

How much does a long black / flat white or bottle of Heineken / Stella Artois cost at your local cafe/bar? Tell us where you are and what you are paying.
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Justin Marshall. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Justin Marshall. Photo / Mark Mitchell

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."

Despite the exorbitant cost of living, Marshall says there is a flip side and has no regrets that he and his family are back living in Christchurch.

"I have realised how much better New Zealand is in terms of family life and amazing scenery and just how good the people are here. It's an amazingly beautiful country and I don't think when you live here you realise how lucky we are."

- NZ Herald

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