Annual inflation has hit 6.9 per cent for the year to March 31, the largest movement since a 7.6 per cent annual increase in the year to the June 1990 quarter, StatsNZ said today.
The figure was lower than some economists had feared with forecasts of up to 7.4 per cent.
The New Zealand dollar fell by just over a quarter of a US cent to US67.86c in the minutes after the CPI's release. Bond yields were unchanged.
The quarterly inflation rate was 1.8 per cent.
Food prices rose sharply in the quarter, up 3.1 per cent, influenced by fruit and vegetables (up 9.3 per cent) and grocery food (up 2.4 per cent).
Housing and household utilities rose 1.8 per cent, influenced by home ownership (up 3.5 per cent) and actual rentals for housing (up 1.1 per cent).
Transport rose 3.3 per cent, influenced by private transport supplies and services (up 6.6 per cent) and partly offset by a fall in passenger transport services (down 9 per cent).
The 6.9 per cent annual increase follows an annual increase of 5.9 per cent in the December 2021 quarter.
Across the annual period the most significant contributor increase in the CPI was housing and household utilities, which increased 8.6 per cent.
The area within housing and household utilities that contributed the most to this increase was the purchase of housing, up 18 per cent. Actual rentals for housing also contributed to this increase, up 4 per cent.
Transport was the second most significant contributor to annual inflation, up 14 per cent.
The largest driver of this was a 32 per cent increase in petrol price.
"While a touch softer than we expected, today's result supports our expectations for a series of further rate hikes from the RBNZ over the coming months," said Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod.
"We're forecasting a 50bp rise in the OCR at the RBNZ's May policy meeting, followed by 25bp increases at every meeting in the back half of the year."
"Inflation is expected to remain above the RBNZ's target band through the remainder of 2022. And although much of that is due to overseas cost pressures, the domestic inflation picture has also heated up."
At 1.8 per cent the quarterly figure was still ahead of the RBNZ's last published forecast in February, of 1.4 per cent for the quarter.
The figure was lower than ANZ's forecast of a 7.4 per cent lift, and consensus expectations (7.1 per cent y/y), but was in line with the RBNZ's view that inflation was likely to "peak around 7 per cent" in the first half of this year, said ANZ economist Finn Robinson.
"A significant chunk of the headline inflation figure continues to reflect the inflationary global environment, with tradables inflation reaching 8.5 per cent.
"Not only has Covid continued to gum up global supply chains, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered massive commodity price volatility globally [alongside the tragic loss of life]. As a small open economy, it's no wonder New Zealand has seen such strength in imported prices over the past year."
However, the real concern for the RBNZ was that domestic inflation pressures had continued to intensify. Non-tradables inflation lifted to 6 per cent.