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100 years measuring the prices of tapioca, tripe, and TVs

100 years measuring the prices of tapioca, tripe, and televisions –

16 July 2014

Prices have risen in New Zealand by 7,500 percent, but it’s taken a century to do it.

For 100 years Statistics NZ has been measuring consumer prices and over the century a lot has changed in terms of what we buy, the quantity we purchase, and the prices we pay.

The goods and services measured in the consumers price index (CPI) have changed markedly over the 100 years reflecting the changes in New Zealand society.

“In 1914 we collected prices for sago, tapioca, treacle, and tripe. Washing machines were added to the CPI in 1949 followed by refrigerators in 1955, televisions in 1965, and home computers in 1988,” prices manager Chris Pike said.

While the items measured in the CPI have changed over time, so have the quantities. A century ago, 25-pound bags of flour and 56-pound bags of sugar were measured in the CPI – today both are measured as 1.5-kilo bags.

Just like the items and the quantities, the prices of consumer items have also changed a lot over the century, with an increase of 7,500 percent.

“A basket of goods and services that cost £1 in 1914 would cost about $151 now if the prices of those goods and services had increased in line with the CPI,” said Mr Pike.

Over the 100 years, annual inflation averaged 4.4 percent but it has varied across the decades. Annual inflation peaked at 18.9 percent in the June 1987 quarter soon after GST was introduced, while during the 1990s it averaged 1.8 percent.

The CPI has been used and continues to be used by the Reserve Bank to guide monetary policy, by government to adjust welfare benefit rates, and by employers and employees in wage negotiations.

An interactive time series visualisation is available on the Statistics NZ website showing how CPI annual inflation has tracked over the century. It also includes contextual information about influences on the CPI. We also have an interactive basket visualisation showing when selected goods and services were added or removed from the CPI.

To mark the 100-year anniversary we digitised historical CPI information dating back to the early 1900s.

Key facts

• Over the past century, consumer prices increased about 7,500 percent. This means that a basket of goods and services that cost the equivalent of £1 in 1914 would cost about $151 now.

• Over the 100-year period, annual inflation averaged 4.4 percent.

• In the 1960s, annual inflation averaged 3.3 percent, in the 1970s 12.0 percent, the 1980s 11.4 percent, the 1990s 1.8 percent, and the 2000s 2.7 percent.

• New Zealand had continuous double-digit annual inflation from the December 1973 quarter to the March 1983 quarter.

• Annual inflation peaked at 18.4 percent in the year to March 1980 quarter, then again at 18.9 percent in the year to the June 1987 quarter, soon after GST was introduced.

• Consumer prices fell 20 percent in the five years to the September 1934 quarter, during the Great Depression.

For more information about these statistics:

• Visit 100 years of the CPI


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