366 days of gratitude


NBR’s annual Rich List was published today.

It’s a celebration of success in many fields with a little luck and a lot of work.

These people contribute to New Zealand’s success, creating jobs, producing goods and services and earning export income.

The story on philanthropists shows, they are also generous in helping others. I know a few of the others on the list who aren’t included in this story and they too give a lot.

Today I’m grateful for these, and the many others who aren’t included, whose success, directly or indirectly, helps us all.

Very unlike Lotto


The NBR’s annual celebration of achievement will no doubt attract derision from the usual suspects who don’t understand wealth creation, what it takes and what it provides for others:

. . .  New riches have been amassed, much of it self-made from creating businesses that employ thousands of people here and overseas. . .

The list attempts to quantify the value of people’s assets. It doesn’t measure the value their success provides for those they employ,  for those who service and supply them and for the economic, environmental and social fabric of the country.

There might be an element of luck in any endeavour but the success this list celebrates owes far more to hard work, skill and the willingness to take risks.

Vicki Jayne, who led the team who put the list together, says:

“But in many ways the actual money is not that important. It’s the stories behind it and the fact that these people have achieved a high level of success. You don’t get the money unless you achieve at a high level in the area you are functioning. It’s very unlike winning Lotto.”

While we celebrate success in sport and the arts, the tall poppy choppers too often deride business success.

That’s a pity, not for the money made but for what it takes to make it and what the people who’ve got it do with it.

This year’s list includes farmers among the newcomers:

When it comes to promoting farming investment in New Zealand, Craigmore Sustainables chief executive Forbes Elworthy could hardly have a better pedigree.

Not only has his family farmed in the South Canterbury foothills for five generations but he can also boast a stellar career trajectory that suggests he knows a thing or two about business. . .

Craigmore Sustainables is now responsible for 40 New Zealand farms which, as the company name suggests, are being run according to a series of community, environmental and business principles that have sustainability at their core. . .

A regular speaker at global investment conferences, he champions New Zealand as a safe haven for farming investment and explains why his company emulates “family farmer behaviours” rather than being “too corporate” in its approach.

Three of Craigmore Sustainable’s farms are in our neighbourhood. They’ve made a big investment in improvements to the properties some of which have enhanced the part of the Alps to Ocean cycle way which goes through their land.

A little further north are the van Leeuwens:

Robots, rubber-floored stalls, cows that live indoors and choose when to be milked – South Canterbury farming couple Adriaan and Wilma van Leeuwen are busy pioneering new frontiers in New Zealand’s dairy industry.

Last year, they opened the world’s biggest ever robotic milking operation under one roof in the small settlement of Makikihi. They even have a plaque from global dairy solutions supplier DeLaval to commemorate the event – and it marks a step change in how farms in this country are managed.

A massive barn houses 1500 cows who decide for themselves when they will head off to one of the 24 robotic stalls for a quiet feed while their udders are automatically prepped and milked. No longer having to deal with inclement weather, the cows are more contented, production goes up and employment costs go down. It’s also easier on the environment – the effluent is collected and reapplied to the farm as fertiliser, thus helping to grow the crops needed to feed the herds and make the whole system self-sufficient. . .

Wilma was a finalist in this year’s Dairy Woman of the Year award.





Self employment key to wealth


NBR editor in chief Nevil Gibson notes the characteristics of many on the Rich List:

. . . High incomes are not necessarily the main factor, either, as often this is accompanied by lavish spending habits.

Indeed, a key feature of these ordinary millionaires is their rejection of flashy cars.

Another is that most are economically self-sufficient: from the start of their adult lives they have had to support themselves.

But most critical is the way they earn their living.

Self-employment gives you a four-times greater chance of becoming rich.

The type of business does not matter, so long as it is successful. Many of them are mundane, providing everyday goods and services.

You will find all of these characteristics in the profiles of the Rich List 2013. Businesses that are built up over a lifetime, or those continued successfully through several generations, are the foundations for fortunes.

A focus on business success, careful investment decisions and identifying entrepreneurial opportunities complete the picture.

The value of property, shares and bonds may rise and fall – but first you have to acquire it.

Very few get rich through wages and salaries alone.

Self-employed or not, the wealthy invest in assets which provide yields which enable their capital to grow.

Few if any will have got it right all the time.

Most, if not all will have lost considerable sums at some time because they got it wrong. But the successful ones learn from their mistakes, pick themselves up, work hard and succeed again.

The usual suspects from the left have greeted the publication of the rich list with cries of inequality.

But Gibson points out:

The past year has been a good one financially and this has benefited the majority as well as the select few.  . .

Another feature of many of the people on the list is their willingness to help others either through charitable donations or other means. this includes giving people opportunities in their businesses.

It’s called the rich list but it’s not so much a celebration of wealth as of success through hard work, risk taking and shrewd investment.

I doubt if any of the people on the list will say that money doesn’t matter. But if my experience of wealthy people is anything to go by, they will say it’s not important in itself but for the choices and opportunities it provides for them and for others.

The full list is here.

Those who like to sneer at Prime Minister John Key and his success might take some satisfaction in the knowledge that running the country hasn’t made him wealthier, in fact, if the NBR’s calculations are accurate it has cost him.

Sporting success good, business success . . . ?


Tomorrow the Olympic Games open. We’ll all be hoping our athletes do well and celebrating their success.

Today the NBR publishes its Rich List and the success it represents is less likely to be celebrated.

After more than a quarter of a century, the NBR Rich List 2012 still draws a variety of strong reactions, many of them negative.

My description last year that we should treat those successful in business as “national treasures” was especially controversial.

It would appear many New Zealanders – probably even a majority – object to wealth, even though by world standards this country’s levels of prosperity are modest indeed…

Few are wealthy because of luck, most earn it. Financial fitness is at least as much a result of ability and hard work as physical fitness.

This year’s list shows that investments in property and natural resources have paid off:

Those who have invested in natural resources or high-growth companies have seen their wealth increase dramatically, while those in the more traditional sectors have found the value of their businesses drop or remain static in a world still in the grip of subdued consumer spending. . .

The list also introduces an international section in recognition of the globalisation of wealth:

These new members have invested parts of the their fortunes in New Zealand or have substantial assets that give them residency rights.

The assets are both for business and pleasure.

To these we have added some of the richer New Zealand-born expatriates, who have created billion-dollar fortunes overseas and do not have this country as their primary residence. . .

At least some of this will count as foreign investment to which the xenophobes show such antipathy.

But New Zealand is richer because of the inward investment and also through the philanthropic activities of the investors.

These people don’t seek medals. But just as watching elite athletes might encourage the less active amongst us to exercise more,  financially successfully people can be role models who provide positive examples and their achievements should be celebrated.




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