The Future is Equal

Wealth of New Zealand’s richest person soars by $3.4bn since beginning of pandemic

New Zealand’s richest citizen, Graeme Hart, has seen his fortune increase by NZ$3,494,333,333 since March 2020 – a sum equivalent to over half a million New Zealanders receiving a cheque for NZ$6,849 each, reveals a new analysis from Oxfam today.  

The New Zealand analysis precedes a global report being published by Oxfam at 1pm NZT today, released to coincide with the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Davos Agenda’. It shows how the rigged economic system is enabling a super-rich elite to amass wealth in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression while billions of people and businesses are struggling to make ends meet.

Oxfam spokesperson Dr Joanna Spratt said it is a symptom of a broken economic model that a small handful of individuals are able to dramatically increase their wealth at times of unprecedented global need.

“While the super-rich amass vast fortunes even during times of global crisis, essential services like healthcare, education and social welfare go underfunded,” Spratt said.

“Across our region people are facing immense challenges, from the demand for foodbanks in New Zealand cities to those rebuilding their homes in Fiji following Cyclone Yasa. The hardships caused by coronavirus and climate destruction hit people with the least the hardest.

“But the unequal impacts are not inevitable. Our leaders can change our broken economic system that allows a small number of people to accumulate such extreme wealth, which is far beyond what any one person might need.

“Together we have the resources we need to give everybody the same opportunities to not only survive, but thrive,” she said. “The question is how we fairly distribute our resources. People built this system, so we have the power to fix it.”

Spratt said overseas aid and public services at home in New Zealand were often set off against each other in times of financial constraint to illustrate a false point that it must be one or the other.

“If we choose not to accept the such extreme inequality, then we can reprogramme our economic system to create a world where everyone – here at home and overseas – can live a life of dignity. Collectively we have more than enough wealth to do this. We can overcome challenges at home and also do our bit for our region, supporting our Pacific neighbours who endure significant hardships from the coronavirus and recession, on top of those that climate destruction is causing,” she said.

“Oxfam and a coalition of our country’s leading aid agencies have been calling for the government to increase its overseas aid and climate finance to meet this time of unprecedented global need – yet the total sum being requested to help the world’s most vulnerable people is just one third of what Hart earned on top of his existing billions in only ten months during the pandemic. This isn’t right.”

Spratt said creating a fairer system was a matter of political leaders having the courage to reign in excessive wealth and build a “human economy” that benefits everyone, not just a fortunate few.

“In the lead-up to the Pacific Island Forum leader’s meeting in early February, we call on our political and business leaders to choose to leave no one behind as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic and work to stop climate destruction,” she said.

“We must shift our priorities towards building an economy that puts people first – a human economy where wealth is no longer so concentrated in the hands of a fortunate few, and everyone has access to basic services like healthcare and education, in New Zealand and around the world.”


Notes to editors:

  • Oxfam’s calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available. Population data comes from Statistics NZ. Figures on the very richest in society come from Forbes’ 2020 Billionaires List. Because data on wealth was very volatile in 2020, the Credit Suisse Research Institute has delayed the release of its annual report on the wealth of humanity until autumn 2021. This means that we have not been able to compare the wealth of billionaires to that of the bottom half of humanity as in previous years. 
  • Oxfam, World Vision, Christian World Service and the Anglican Diocese of Wellington are leading the year-long campaign to improve New Zealand’s overseas aid and overseas climate action funding at, with CARE, Christian Blind Mission, Engineers Without Borders New Zealand, FairTrade Australia NZ, New Zealand Family Planning, Hagar New Zealand, Rotary New Zealand World Community Service, Tearfund, Trade Aid, and UnionAID. 
  • New Zealand currently gives approximately 0.28% of Gross National Income to overseas aid. The internationally agreed target is 0.7% of GNI to overseas aid. 

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Kelsey-Rae Taylor on or +6421 298 5894.