The consumers price index (CPI) rose 0.4 percent for the March 2010 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today.
Higher prices for food and petrol were partly offset by lower prices for recreation and culture.
The CPI measures the rate of price change of goods and services purchased by households.
Food prices rose 1.0 percent in the March 2010 quarter, reflecting higher prices for grocery food (up 1.1 percent), in particular milk, cheese, and butter. Prices also rose for fruit and vegetables (up 2.3 percent) and meat, poultry, and fish (up 1.3 percent). The food group recorded its lowest annual price increase since the June 2005 quarter.
"Although food prices are 1.2 percent higher than a year ago, they are 10.1 percent higher than two years ago," Statistics New Zealand's prices manager Chris Pike said.
The transport group (up 1.1 percent) also made a key contribution in the March 2010 quarter, due to petrol prices rising 6.9 percent. If petrol prices had remained unchanged from the December 2009 quarter, the CPI would have recorded no change. Petrol prices are now at their highest level for 18 months. International airfares fell 8.3 percent; they usually fall in the March quarter, following a seasonal rise in the December quarter.
Annually, the transport group recorded an increase of 6.4 percent, with higher prices for petrol (up 11.5 percent) and second-hand cars (up 9.9 percent). The recreation and culture group (down 1.4 percent) made the most significant downward contribution in the March 2010 quarter. This fall was largely the result of lower audio-visual equipment prices (down 7.6 percent), which also fell by a similar amount last quarter.
The CPI increased 2.0 percent for the year to the March 2010 quarter. Non-tradable goods and services rose 2.1 percent. "The annual price rise for non-tradable goods and services, which do not face foreign competition, was the lowest for more than eight years," Mr Pike said.
Tradables (which are imported or in competition with imported goods) rose 2.0 percent in the year to the March 2010 quarter, reflecting higher prices for petrol and second-hand cars.
Statistics NZ visits 3,000 shops around New Zealand to collect prices for the CPI and check product sizes and features.