By Dan Satherley
The recession is well and truly over for the country's financial elite, the 2011 National Business Review Rich List shows.
After dipping slightly in 2010, the country's wealthiest 151 individuals and families now have a combined wealth of a whopping $45.2 billion, up $7 billion on last year.
The list is topped once again by billionaire Graeme Hart, whose fortune rose $1 billion to $6.5 billion.
At the other end of the scale, Prime Minister John Key barely scrapes in with a comparatively modest $55 million, up $5 million since becoming Prime Minister at the end of 2008.
Below Mr Hart are Richard Chandler, investor, $4 billion; the Todd family, energy, $2.7 billion; Eamon Cleary, property, $2 billion; Christopher Chandler, investment, $1.5 billion; Lynne Erceg, liquor, $1.5 billion; Michael Friedlander, property, $900 million; Owen Glenn, shipping, $900 million; Stephen Jennings, investment, $900 million; and Goodman family, property, $850 million.
In comparison, the average New Zealander's wage rose 1.9 percent in the year to March, according to Statistics New Zealand. The median annual income in New Zealand (for all people) is $529 a week, or $27,500 a year.
NBR news editor Ellen Read says the paper asked several of the entrants what it takes to become a Rich Lister.
"We expected to hear the usual expressions of dedication, courage, consolidation and calculated risk," she says, "yet what emerged again and again was the need for a regulatory and operational environment that's conducive to wealth creation.
"'Eliminating excessive regulation', 'easing constrictions' and 'freeing up the entrepreneurial spirit' were regarded as essential to enabling wealth creation."
Ms Read says many on the list said being "loud and proud" about their success was also key, as it "fosters confidence, generates optimism, backs winners and underpins achievement".
This year's list contains six billionaires, 99 men, four women, 41 families and seven pairs. New to the list are the Fulton and Hogan families, John Holdsworth, Neil Graham and Philip and Jackie Mills.
Notable names also on the list include Sir Michael Hill, jeweller, Sir Peter Jackson, filmmaker, and former partner of model Nicky Watson, Eric Watson.
To put their wealth in perspective, the Government's entire tax take over 2010 was $50.7 billion, barely more than the Rich List's combined worth.