Northland home to rich listers

By Lindy Laird

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Northland can claim to be the New Zealand seat for the country's wealthiest man, Russian industrialist Alexander Abramov, who is building a $40 million waterfront mansion at Helena Bay, north-east of Whangarei.

The steel and minerals mogul is worth a cool $7 billion, according to the 2012 National Business Review Rich List - released yesterday - which calls him a Northlander.

And the fourth wealthiest person in New Zealand has already developed a patch of paradise in Northland - he is Julian Robertson, investor, art philanthropist and owner of three luxury golf resorts, one of which is Kauri Cliffs at Matauri Bay. He scoots in the Rich List with a $3 billion fortune.

Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Collins said the region reaped long-term benefits from local investment by the likes of Mr Abramov and Mr Robertson. Those benefits went beyond the price paid for their land and buildings.

"[Mr Abramov] has already done a lot for people in the community who are being employed to work on the Helena Bay property, especially local Maori," Mr Collins said. "I know of one company that has taken on apprentices on the strength of long-term work associated with building that place.

To have a project of that scale in the area gives small businesses confidence and it will have flow-on effects."

Mr Collins said the Robertson family had been employing Northlanders for years and the Kauri Cliffs resort attracted big spenders as well. The Robertsons investment into the community was also cultural as well as economic, for example as significant funders of the Turner Centre in Kerikeri.

Property is sexy again, making more people rich than any other category of wealth generation - with 33 entries on the list making the bucks through property, investment next (23) and technology third (19). Agriculture and forestry and wine and horticulture also feature large, with transport and fisheries being mere minnows among the mega-moneymakers.

Overseas wealth has bumped a few homegrown richlisters down the ladder but the perennial Graeme Hart sits safely at second place, with $6 billion in his pocket. Fortune still smiles on former Whangarei lad, Sir Michael Hill (41st on the list with a $250 million fortune), jeweller, and Glen Inger, property holder (equal 83rd, $110 million).

Among other listers not identified as having Northland links are David and Anne Norman, originally from Dargaville, who own Pascoes, Stewart Dawson, Farmers and Whitcoulls. The region's richest son on last year's list, Kaitaia-born property developer Peter Cooper, who lives in California, still has a firm standing among our rich.

Rich is defined as having $50 million or more. While some on the list roll in old money and others revel in new money, a common factor for several is that they are not New Zealanders and much of their wealth is stashed overseas. The compilers say the inclusion of an international section "reflects the globalisation of wealth".

Mr Abramov has leaped to the top in his first outing on the list because, like others, his spending in this country has earned him residency rights. Nine new "New Zealand" billionaires have been listed, and inflated the total value of their purses to $57.7 billion, up from last year's $45.2 billion.

Among those newbies are movie maker James Cameron, US winemaker William Foley, horse-set member Dowager Duchess Henrietta of Bedford (UK) and two hotel empire families Pandey and Junjhunwala (India).

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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