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Bill Bennett


When I worked on the NBR Rich List

“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.



8 thoughts on “When I worked on the NBR Rich List

  1. the day after the Rich List is published, Inland Revenue tax officers would pour over the estimates

    I doubt they’d have much joy. The way NZ tax works, a billionaire could have their entire fortune in growth stocks and investment properties, live on the capital gains and claim Working for Families on a basis of nil income.

  2. I wonder if it is related to our Tall Poppies Syndrome? Or our general want of people to be humble?
    I know for me if I won lotto or came into a lot of money I would not tell a soul (not even family), I want to live like a normal person, I definitely would not like the attention I got for being rich.

    1. That applies to getting rich via job, too, if that wasn’t obvious. No one needs to know how much I make after a certain point.

    2. I think there is a link between this and the tall poppy syndrome, not necessarily a negative one.

      It could also be that New Zealanders are not narcissistic by nature.

      1. I think it is a part of our society to be more about our merits than how much money we have or where we came from.

        It definitely supports the fact that you don’t really know how many ‘rich’ people there are in NZ. I mean, we have highly expensive places like Acacia Bay in Taupo and expensive Auckland suburbs, but these people once they leave their house they aren’t obviously ‘above us’ or anything like that. I like it like that, having a chat with some chap then you find out he was an MP or owned this-and-that.

        I’m sure there is definitely huge differences in how they live their lives, but generally they’re not as out-of-the-loop as some places in America (and I’m sure other places) are.

  3. One nice thing about living in NZ and the community is that not many or probably hardly anyone would care about what car you drive or (for ladies) what handbag your carry. The richness in NZ is in its surrounds, the nature, the beaches and it does not matter if one live in places like Devonport or Herne Bay or Acacia Bay. What beauverusiv said is totally true, there is no such feeling as an ‘above us’ kind of feel. The abundance of nature and fresh air is free for both the rich and the poor so generally we are all a humble community. 🙂
    On another note, I was looking to read more NZ blogs and have reblogged a post from the writer Bill Bennnett so if there are any NZ bloggers reading this, please visit http://littlegirlstory.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/new-zealands-top-wordpress-com-sites/
    and link or pingback your blog to the list please. 🙂

  4. The company I used to work for were contracted by the NBR to check the details and update them. It was a lot of guesswork by the sounds. Lots of trusts for example. Tax? What tax? It looked like the authors were conservative mostly. There are a huge number of people with the money to be on the list who aren’t I reckon.

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