'People like us ...we just don't win money,' says shocked $36m winner

By Patrick Gower

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The winners of last night's $36 million Big Wednesday prize package say while the win is amazing, the attention that came with it is "scary".

The four winners are part of an extended family syndicate called 'Irish Luck', formed because a great grandmother could no longer afford to buy a weekly ticket on her own.

They are sisters Fiona and Siobhan, Siobhan's daughter and their mother.

They would not reveal their family name.

The sisters, a nurse and a bakery worker, are in their 40s. Their mother is a great-grandmother.

The two sisters told a media conference in Wellington this afternoon they were a normal Masterton family who just wanted to be comfortable.

There will be no public comment from other members of the syndicate.

Fiona said she liked her wine, and got a friend to bring round an extra bottle last night.

She got a joking text from a friend saying: "Hey you can buy a vineyard now".

Fiona said the word was out in Masterton within two hours of the draw, when they started getting texts. They had no idea how Masterton knew.

"Everybody in Masterton knows."

Fiona and her partner had just got a second mortgage to "get the bathroom done, pay off debts" and get their children on a school trip to Australia.

She said they had struggled for the past three years while she studied nursing.

Fiona said: "All my mother wants is a little car."

In a statement her mother said that only a couple of weeks ago her bank turned her down for a car loan.

"I look forward to going to the bank manager now."

Their mother had worked hard to put clothes on their backs when they were children because she had had nothing as a child, going to school in bare feet, the sisters' said.

"I said to her... I think people like us are just meant to work all our lives, we just don't win money," Fiona said.

Siobhan has three children and a grandchild.

The sisters were worried about their security and people hounding them.

Siobhan purchased the ticket yesterday morning, on her way to work at a bakery.

Fiona said her daughter wanted to go to the musical Mamma Mia and she was pleased she could now pay for the ticket.

Their extended family syndicate is named "Irish luck" after their late husband and father and grandfather.

Their father died two years ago.

The syndicate won their prize on a $12 ticket using lucky numbers from family birthdays.

The ticket-holders are New Zealand's richest lottery winners, scooping the entire $36.1 million Big Wednesday prize pool. They also took the second division prize of $696,795.

Masterton Mayor Garry Daniell said it was "just wonderful" that the money had gone to someone in his town.

Mr Daniell hoped the winner would invest the money back into his community.

Asked about the Mayor's comments, Fiona replied: "Mum says she's paid a lot of rates."

But the family are planning to give some of the money away to charities, although they would wait until the dust settled before deciding which ones.

"Of course things like the Westpac (Rescue) Helicopter is a huge thing for us because it comes over to the Wairarapa heaps for people, and mum wants to buy a new ambulance for the Wairarapa District Health Board because she travels in one so often," Fiona said.

The money will going into one account tonight, and will be shared equally among the winners tomorrow.

Last night's prize pool was $34,453,401 in cash, two luxury cars - an Audi R8 and a Porsche Cayenne - $250,000 credit on an American Express Platinum Card, $250,000 cash towards luxury travel, a Four Winns V258 boat and $750,000 towards a bach.

Masterton, Wairarapa's largest town, had a population of 22,626 in the 2006 Census.

Its median income was $21,000, against the national median last year of $35,000.

The previous largest Big Wednesday first division prize was a $12.8 million package drawn in February 2006, and the largest previous single lottery prize was $19 million in Powerball in April last year.

The Lotteries Commission said 4.78 million Big Wednesday tickets were sold for last night's draw, compared to 500,000 in an average week. It generated $28 million in sales.

- with NZ HERALD STAFF, NZPA

- NZ Herald

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