Last week, I was tasked with trying to find something that was cheaper in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.
I failed. On every point I examined, I found that there was somewhere else in the world where it was cheaper.
So I asked for your ideas, and they piled into my inbox.
They fit into several key themes.
I pondered covering this in my initial piece but left it out because I figured that you could say this about any country. (And the cost of travelling to see other countries’ scenery is higher for us than for someone from Britain, say, travelling to Europe on holiday.)
But readers noticed the absence. Janet Kerby pointed out we have “some absolutely magnificent and stunning scenery and unusual birds”.
Simon Shaw pointed to the country’s great walks, the huts and campsites which are cheaper for New Zealanders.
Barry Joblin said deer shooting in state forests was free for those so inclined. He said a hunting licence was free – although the gun ownership comes with a cost. He also suggested fishing – a freshwater fishing licence is $150 for an adult for a season and saltwater fishing is free.
“Also gold panning. There are 19 public gold fossicking areas in NZ. These are free to use with the Department of Conservation often supplying camping grounds (small overnight fee). Best news is that you can actually find gold in them all.”
Tracy-Corina Elliott was thinking along similar lines. “In New Zealand you can still harvest shellfish for free. Only a bucket needed and hardy hands. You can fish but this is where the fishing gear is dearer in NZ. You can go pick watercress and puha …only need a knife. You can go swimming for free on our beaches which isn’t possible in most countries. You pay to enter beaches in Dubai.”
She said people in some towns were able to pick fresh herbs from council-run gardens.
Thomas Tripp said he would pay $329 a year for comprehensive insurance on a Nissan X-Trail in this country. “In Ohio, a driver with good credit and a good driving history would pay four times as much annually – $1244 – to insure a similar car – Nissan Frontier.”
Kathy Buckham pointed to the cost of registering a car in Queensland. The Queensland Government’s website shows that this varies according to the type of car – an electric car would be A$283.55 a year ($307), a four-cylinder vehicle A$360.60, a five- or six-cylinder A$570.95, a seven- or eight-cylinder $799.60 and a nine to 12-cylinder vehicle A$937.80.
In New Zealand, a private passenger vehicle running on petrol would cost $106.15 a year.
Education and healthcare
These were suggested by several readers.
While we are cheaper than many parts of the world, there are still costs. One study suggested the parents of a child born in 2018 would have paid just under $40,000 by the time they reached the end of the public school system here, even though it is, in theory, free.
Tripp said the cost of going to university in New Zealand was less than the US.
“According to the University of Canterbury’s website a year studying business, economics, accounting, or law will cost $6947. This can be funded by a student loan from the NZ government; that loan charges 0% interest and doesn’t have to start being repaid until your earnings are above a certain threshold.
Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins wants to remove GST from fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables from April 2024.
“In comparison, the cost of a year studying at Cleveland (Ohio) State University – I have degrees from both UC and CSU and opine that as universities they are roughly equivalent in size and quality – is $12,600 for Ohio residents – about double the cost at University of Canterbury.
“Like NZ, the government of the United States will happily lend you the money to attend. But you will be charged 5.5% (currently) on your outstanding student loan balance compared to 0% in New Zealand. The United States is also rather stingy in how much they will lend you at the subsidised rate of 5.5%. Many US university students wind up paying a blended interest rate on their loans in the 8% range (government loan at 5.5%, private loan at 12%).”
This is all true, but there are cheaper options for university elsewhere in the world.
As for healthcare, data shows that New Zealanders spend more out of pocket than people in all African countries, China, India, much of South America, Mexico, Poland, Romania and Iran, among others.
A couple of readers also mentioned ACC, which provides cover for accidents anywhere, not just in workplaces as in some other parts of the world.
Marcus Henry suggested Domino’s and Pizza Hut might be cheaper here. “Last time I was in UK and USA they were massively more expensive.”
The Pizza Hut UK website shows a Big New Yorker delivery deal at £15.99 ($33).
In NZ, this pizza would have cost $24.48 to have delivered to an Auckland address on Monday.
Three pizzas and three sides delivered would have been from $45 in Auckland. The UK didn’t have precisely this deal going but had two medium pizzas, two sides, one cookie dough and a bottle of Pepsi Max for £28.99.
Data from this year showed that the cheapest price for a Domino’s 30cm pizza was US$3 in India and South Africa. Some of the most expensive pizza was in Switzerland (US$21), Japan (US$20), Brazil (US$15) and Chile (US$15). This survey didn’t include New Zealand – depending on the currency, our $7 (US$4.20) value range at Domino’s isn’t terrible.
We produce a lot of food but pay relatively high prices for it because of the need to compete with export markets. We also pay GST on our food, which many countries don’t, and have limited grocery competition.
But Gamaliel Ramos said New Zealanders were getting better value for some of the food that they purchased.
“Let us talk turkey. Recently, I saw a turkey for sale at Costco for NZ$140, and my mom sent me a picture of a turkey that cost 99c a pound –a vast difference. Yet, although shocked, I understood.
“There are some tradeoffs. The turkey was fresh, clean, not frozen, free-range, and organic. While the US Butterball was neither of those. The same goes for almost every food in the US and its territories. Yes, there are incredibly cheaper versions of everything, but at a cost. In many cases, it is not safe for consumption in other countries. Yet, if we compare the prices of NZ food with places like Whole Foods, ACME, The Fresh Market or Harris Teeter, those places surpass NZ supermarkets in price by selling the same food.
“A healthier option is expensive here but even more in other places. Fruits and veggies are grown in better conditions to produce a better, more nutritious product for the consumer. Take beef, for example; New Zealand cattle are raised within rigorous limitations. No hormones; it’s better than USDA Organic for additives. This is why NZ protein powder comes at a higher price than other places, so it doesn’t run the risk of growth hormones left over from dairy production.”