From eggs to houses and (almost) everything in between.
If there’s one thing New Zealand doesn’t currently have a shortage of, it’s shortages. It’s a word so commonly seen at the supermarket or in the news at the moment that it’s stopped looking like a real word.
For a while, New Zealand’s stock struggles were linked to Covid-19, with global supply chains disrupted as the world shut down. Think back to 2020, when toilet paper and flour became our most precious commodities. Since then, however, a number of other items have gone on the endangered species list as we’ve experienced limits triggered by other global struggles like the Ukraine war, along with pressures closer to home. As one hospitality worker put it in a recent interview with Stuff: “You name it and there’s a shortage.”
Turns out it’s not just hospitality feeling the pinch, though it’s certainly an industry being unfairly hit by global disruption. So what’s currently on short supply? Here is The Spinoff’s non-exhaustive list of everything that’s currently hard-to-find in New Zealand.
You’ve been reading about it everywhere for the past few weeks: eggs are proving incredibly elusive these days, in cartons bigger than six anyway. Supermarkets have brought in limits, shelves have been barren, and the BBC went as far as to declare that the future of the pavlova is at risk. It’s even been prompting a surge in chicken owners, or at least interest in becoming one.
So what exactly is going on? Writing for The Spinoff earlier this month, Olivia Sisson explained that it was linked to the introduction of legislation first enacted a decade earlier that would outlaw battery caged eggs. “To meet demand, New Zealand needs 2.8-2.9 million laying hens. There are now only 2.5 million,” she explained. On a side note: finding tasty, non-woody chicken breasts has also become a challenge.
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Craft brewers Garage Project revealed last week that thousands of litres of otherwise finished beer cannot be sold due to a shortage of CO2. The company warned that unless a new supply was obtained within the next week or two, it risked running out completely – truly awful news for the hot summer months.
As Stuff explained, the shortage – which is also impacting some meat processing – has been caused by the closure of the Marsden Point refinery in 2022 along with an outage at the country’s only remaining commercial carbon dioxide producer, the Todd Energy plant.
There are always areas that struggle to find skilled workers, but Covid-19 exacerbated this dramatically. A recent survey found permanent job offerings dropped by about 23% in the September quarter, with flexible work offers down by 18.4%. “There remains a significant national skills shortage and finding skilled labour is still a huge challenge,” said RCSA’s council chair Jon Ives.
Inherently linked to the shortage of skills is the shortage of workers in general. While we may not quite be at the “brain drain” level of discussion over immigration, the number of people leaving New Zealand shot up during the pandemic. In November 2021, Stats NZ reported migration showed a net loss of 12,700. In the same time last year, the figures had flicked back to a net gain – but only of 5,700. That contributed to the country’s low unemployment rate of just 3.3%.
The government moved to tackle this shortage in December last year when it introduced changes to the immigration fast list, encouraging the likes of nurses, midwives and certain labourers to come live in New Zealand.
Noticed your bus to work being cancelled more lately? That’s because New Zealand is facing a shortage of bus drivers, triggering widespread cancellations in our main centres. It was reported last week that about the country’s largest bus operator had filled 100 positions from overseas workers in an effort to curb the number of services being cancelled. In Wellington, for example, the Herald reported that services had been running on a Saturday timetable throughout January – a 20% reduction in scheduled trips.
At least at McDonald’s, reported Stuff at the end of last year. The fast food chain said it had rationed supplies of OJ in its stores because of international shortages triggered by Covid-19. Meanwhile, KFC briefly cut back on its coleslaw sales due to a lack of dressing.
In news triggering to those of us who lived through the great flour shortage of 2020, an Auckland supermarket enforced a strict one-bread limit earlier this year in response to supply disruptions. As the Herald reported, shoppers at the Glen Eden Fresh Choice were forced to make the devastating choice: do you want to buy a pack of rolls or a loaf of bread? Thankfully this does not appear to be a nationwide dilemma, though it’s not the only time bread has been a valuable commodity in recent times.
In its liquid form only, reported Stuff last week. Pharmac warned consumers that there was a supply issue for the Ethics branded ibuprofen liquid, prompting stock issues in some pharmacies. The good news, though: this is likely to be resolved in the next couple of weeks.
What shortage list would be complete without referencing New Zealand’s most perennial shortage of them all: housing. While housing prices may have eased in 2022, there is still a massive shortage of mid-priced housing, especially with interest rates on the rise. That being said, KiwiBank reported last year that the housing shortage had shrunk down to about 23,000 homes, compared with almost 60,000 the year prior. “From Covid, despite the lack of materials, and despite the difficulty finding staff, StatsNZ estimates a total of over 41,000 homes were built in the year to June 2022,” senior economist Jeremy Couchman said in August.
A sub-shortage within the housing shortage is gib, which prompted the creation of the plasterboard task force last year.
One of the more recent shortages to emerge is a lack of road seal, prompting delays to road recovery work. The Herald this week reported that scheduled work on State Highway 2 was bumped “as a result of a resourcing shortage”.
This one is weird, but shows the power of social media. Thanks to TikTok, sales of certain piping have sold out after it was revealed they can be inserted into a car’s drinks holder in order for it to fit large drink bottles, specifically the Frank Green range. Confused? Watch this video – and then try to resist the urge to head straight to Bunnings in search of a bit of pipe.
This list will continue to be updated, pending supply of available writers.