Budgeting service calls for more focus on 'working families' as Chris Hipkins takes charge

The Prime Minister has dubbed it the pandemic of inflation and figures out on Wednesday show the tide has stalled - but that doesn't make it any less painful.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the cost of living, showed there was no change from December's 7.2 percent.

The biggest increase was the cost of housing, with rents up 4.4 percent and the cost to build a house up 14 percent in a year. Food is also driving inflation up, specifically meat, vegetables and ready-to-eat food. 

The good news? The 7.2 percent figure is a shade lower than the Reserve Bank predicted of 7.5 percent. But that's no comfort to those doing it tough.

Student Marcail Parkinson is having to cut back just to survive. These days it's pretty tough to keep the fridge stocked.

"We've got a bit of fresh fruit this week. The supermarket was having some good sales, so that was nice," said Parkinson. 

"You go in, you're looking at eggs and it's like, oh cool guess we will just buy a six-pack of eggs to get us through the next two weeks rather than the normal 18-pack."

Across the road from her is Premier House, the official residence of the person with the power to help.

"[The figures] today underline the importance of the commitment that I have made over the last few days to place the cost of living and the economic situation that we face as our number one priority as a Government," said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

But National's Christopher Luxon isn't impressed.

"I find it incredibly cynical that here we are, six months, seven months out from an election and all of a sudden, we're miraculously going to focus on the economy. Give me a break," said Luxon.

Those numbers are proving the cost of everything is stubbornly - scarily - high, still up 7.2 percent

Papakura Budgeting Services is helping people who they shouldn't have to help.

"People who have double incomes, that should be able to survive and manage a family are not surviving," said Louise Tulp, a financial mentor.

"People at the end of it have nothing left for any fun activities or anything to do with their children, they just end up paying the bills."

The price of food is eating up everyone's incomes. Before inflation started soaring in January 2020, a dozen eggs cost almost $4.50, now they're almost $7. A litre of milk has gone from about $3.60 to $4, and a kilogram of cheese from $9.70 to $14.40.

"We need a little bit more focus on working families," said Denise Smith, a budgeting service financial mentor.

Hipkins said the Government is "making haste" but he won't make things up on the fly.

The Greens' Chlöe Swarbrick wants action.

"Right now he is the politician in the country that holds all of the power to deal with circumstances that are materially worse than when he was campaigning on these issues 20 years ago."

Hipkins said help will be on its way - in a bit.

"I will need to take a little bit of time to work through what our options are before I start speculating on what we may or may not do."

But waiting weeks or months for help is far too long many for families who need help right now.

Those families who are expecting something meaningful from a new Prime Minister.