“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

And New Zealand’s rich are different from those elsewhere.

I worked for the NBR in the 1990s and wrote stories for the paper’s NBR Rich List edition.

My job meant getting short interviews of rich listers and checking details about their wealth. It didn’t take long for one thing to become clear, New Zealand’s rich did not like talking about their wealth and went out-of-the-way to downplay their success. Many tried to persuade me they didn’t belong on the Rich List. One hired a publicist to persuade me he didn’t belong on the Rich List.

Compare this with the big noters in Australia or the US who would pay publicists to get their names on local equivalents of the Rich List.

One possible explanation for New Zealanders coyness is that the day after the NBR published the Rich List, Inland Revenue tax officers would pour over the estimates before taking a great deal of interest in any mismatches between tax returns and the published estimates of wealth.

Maybe. But I don’t think that’s the only reason.