Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully, along with hundreds of Herald readers, has weighed in on the debate about whether New Zealand is ripping off tourists, which was sparked by today's column by English writer Peter Bills.

"The price of ordinary, everyday articles and living costs horrify me in this country," wrote Mr Bills. "This place is becoming one of the most expensive I visit, one giant rip-off. And most of you seem unaware of it."

Mr McCully said Mr Bills' allegation was not the first time New Zealand has been labelled a rip off, and it will not be the last.

"I've simply appealed to the accommodation sector and others to try and strike a balance," said the Minister.

"Yes, it [the World Cup] is an opportunity to charge premium prices but they need to temper the opportunity with a sense of responsibility for New Zealand's brand, for our reputation for good hospitality and good value for money," Mr McCully said.

Readers were divided, with some agreeing wholeheartedly with Mr Bills' assessment and others vehemently disagreeing.

Commenting on Mr Bills' column on today was Tony Penman, a Kiwi living in England.

"I couldn't agree more," wrote Mr Penman. "Everytime I return home I'm simply dumbfounded by just how expensive goods and services are in NZ."

But Jonathan Spencer, a Brit living in New Zealand, reckoned Mr Bills had it wrong. "Some things are cheaper in Europe but so what, it will always be like that, NZ is a smaller economy so some things will always cost more. I vote for NZ and long may we stay here, he can bog off back to the UK and wallow in the country's current problems."

Wellingtonian David was staggered by the arrogance of our service industry in charging "outrageous prices for often mediocre service. We live in comfortable isolation, peering out at the world and inaccurately judging our standands against it," he said.

Dolly agreed. "The NZ business person is so smug, thinking that our "clean, green image" is enough to justify charging astronomical prices to tourists and consequently to all NZers."

But many thought Mr Bills found this country pricey because of what he was buying.

Sharon, another Brit living in New Zealand, reckoned Mr Bills found everything so expensive because he was buying luxury items and dining in tourist spots. "I don't own a Merino wool sweater," she said. "They're expensive anywhere. And if he had lunch on the waterfront, those are premium restaurants - there are many places around the world that have premium eating and drinking sites. Has he tried to buy a coffee in St Mark's Square in Venice? Talk about rip-off!"

'H' agreed. "How do most of us balance the budget? By not eating every meal at high-end restaurants like Kermadec, one of the most expensive in the country, not shopping on Queen St (which is geared predominantly for tourists) and not staying in hotels in a city hosting a rugby test (during which prices usually double). Unless you happen to be particularly wealthy or particularly wasteful, these are not "ordinary, everyday" expenses."

Peter from Tauranga reckoned it was possible to live cheaply in New Zealand, "you just need to be a bit streetwise and savvy about your shopping habits. Avoid the obvious tourist traps and seek out the non-branded stores and smaller, off-the-track restaurants. They are out there to be found and if in doubt, just ask a local."

On our Facebook page, Anna Phillips was philosophical. "I guess it's the price you have to pay to live in a paradise... Well it would be a paradise if everyone stopped complaining and just got on with life. It is what it is, if you don't like it then leave."

Dean Carroll thought the lack of competition was the main problem here. "Many sectors are duopolies (most importantly supermarkets) in such a small market (with distance)."

But Penny Hill thought we were getting ripped off here because we're gullible. "As long as there are people who believe 'we are only a small country', 'there is not enough competition' and 'the great things are free', keep your heads buried in that sand, and you are gullible enough to be easily ripped off."

Over on Twitter, Jase Palm from Perth shared his experience of the great Kiwi rip off. "Wanted to hire a motorhome in Queenstown and return it there too - was told i needed to pay a $150 Queenstown fee!" he tweeted.

Kuratowa from Florida tweeted that the column "explains my book on NZ for $14 a day is woefully out of date - crippling depression setting in."

- NZ Herald staff