With the official data showing inflation remains low, why does it feel like the cost of living keeps rising? Are Kiwis being ripped off?

Independent economist Cameron Bagrie says a lack of competitive pressure in key sectors means New Zealanders are paying too much for some consumer products and that is hurting the national savings rate.

"'Ripped off' is probably a bit too strong a term," he said.

But the OECD had noted the issue in its 2017 report and the Productivity Commission had noted a considerable difference in construction costs - when compared to Australia, he said.


Latest inflation data shows housing-related costs rose 3.1 per cent in the year to March 31 - relative to overall inflation of 1.1 per cent.

New Zealand traditionally suffered from the "tyranny of distance", which meant extra transport costs for many goods, but that was becoming less of an issue in the high-tech economy.

However, we did still suffer from a lack of scale, Bagrie said.

We only had two major supermarket chains, while local authority rates continued to outstrip the inflation rate, he said.

Banking costs were a hot topic across the Tasman and, while he didn't necessarily see the same issues in this country, he noted that return on equity across the banking sector in New Zealand (after tax) was close to 15 per cent, higher than in Australia.

Petrol prices had also been under scrutiny after sharp rises in some regions.

"If you want to put more money in people's pockets, it's not just about raising wages, we've got to find a way of driving a bit more competitive pressure into the economy."

There were some promising things in the pipeline, he said.


"The Commerce Amendment Bill is going to give the Commerce Commission more teeth to undertake market-based studies, and that is a step in the right direction."

Bagrie said he'd also like to see the Productivity Commission investigating a couple of key sectors.

The good news was that technological disruption was keeping downward pressure on inflation generally.

It was important not to take low baseline inflation for granted, Bagrie said.

"That's going to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future and that's a big risk that households can ignore for now," he said.

But the consumer price index and real-world inflation weren't the same thing, he said.


"There's different inflation measures, so if you look at the cost of living for a super annuitant it's more like two per cent. So well above the 1.1 per cent."

Generally, the lower your income the worse the impact of inflation because the necessary items like food and housing and power tended to creep up, while the discretionary "fun" items like phones and TVs kept getting cheaper, Bagrie said.