Kiwi hits new pound, rand highs

The New Zealand dollar broke through record highs against the British pound and the South African rand yesterday, spelling bad news for the tourism sector but good news for expats.

According to yesterday's cross rates, a single kiwi dollar would buy 54.06 pence, its highest level since the New Zealand currency was floated in the 1980s. Similarly, one New Zealand dollar would get R7.51 yesterday - a level that has also never been seen before.

Willie Bosman, owner of the South African Store in Auckland, said the long-running depreciation of the rand had been a boon for his business, with more expats placing special orders as ticket prices fell. Most in demand were soft drinks, confectionary, and spices, according to Bosman, "pretty much anything that reminds South Africans of home".

Martin Cahnbally, the proprietor of Planet Wine in Auckland, said South African wine producers had switched to selling in US dollars years ago to cope with the high volatility of the rand. The kiwi recently traded at US84.56 cents against the greenback, just about 4c shy of its all time high.

But while consumers of imported British and South African goods may be enjoying the benefits of a strong cross rate, tourism operators are not.

Latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show 32,800 tourists from the UK visited New Zealand in December, down just over 1700 on the same month a year ago, and 3160 lower compared with 2010.

Similarly with South Africa, where visitor numbers in December dropped 9 per cent compared with the previous year.