Five years ago Napier great-grandmother Lesley spun Lotto's last ever live Winning Wheel and won $500,000. Those who put themselves in the spotlight to spin it say the nation lost something that night. Chris Hyde reports.
If you had a six- or seven-figure Lotto win, would you go public with it, or would you take a $25,000 win that kept your face off the TV and out of the newspaper?
For nearly 11 years, Lotto's Winning Wheel promotion offered those who won it that stark choice.
Lucky ticket holders could spin the wheel where the worst prize was $100,000 and the best was $1 million. Or they could bugger off with $25,000 and no publicity.
Over 11 years, 571 Kiwis decided to gamble that the NZ public wouldn't cause them or their riches grief.
They made their way from cities and rural areas around NZ to the bright glare of studios in Avalon and Auckland and spun it.
Lotto scrapped the promotion in July 2015, but not before the wheel had resulted in $114,091,490 being given away since its 2004 debut.
It begs the question in an age where privacy for Lotto winners in NZ has never been more watertight, what actually happened to the 571 Kiwis who stuck their head above the parapet?
Napier widow Lesley, 89, who Hawke's Bay Today has decided doesn't need her last name published for all to see, was the last to spin the wheel.
Her $500,000 win was a good one in the context of the wheel. Only 19 people stopped it at the magic $1m mark - far more ended up with $100,000 and $200,000.
She says she's had a lot of fun - her numerous stories about popping bubbly bottles bear testament to that - but it did take time to mellow to the wagging tongues.
Lesley said before the spin she was "terribly nervous" and initially wanted to take the $25,000, but the lure of more money eventually convinced her.
Even though her last name has never been disclosed, her face on television and in the paper made it very hard to keep anything a secret, she said.
"The next time I went to a funeral service there were a lot of people who knew who Lesley was."
Lesley said she initially kept "very quiet" about her win to those she didn't know well and it took her two years to admit the woman on the TV was her when asked.
But she's eventually come around to owning that she's a major Lotto winner now, mainly because the community around her has been so good about it.
"I did not have one beggar come to me. People said to me 'oh, you're lucky', but it was in a nice way.
"I think people just knew me and thought they don't have a hope in hell of getting any money out of me anyway," she said with a laugh.
Lesley, who bought her ticket on a whim after a swim at the Onekawa aquatic centre, has used the money well.
When she bought her ticket she told the staff member behind the counter of Andrew Spence Pharmacy that she wanted a ticket that would provide "the best return on investment".
When she checked her ticket three weeks later on a supermarket shopping trip she realised she'd got just that.
Instead of getting the groceries she'd planned, she walked into the Pak'nSave, bought a bottle of top-shelf bubbles, and headed home to tell her close relatives.
A significant portion of the money was shared around family.
She also spent a weekend away in Herbertville, in the Tararua district, and took a magical helicopter trip over Mount Taranaki, where she and her late husband once farmed the lower slopes, to Oakura Beach for a picnic and wine.
Lesley said she was flying to Rarotonga for a family wedding the week before spinning the wheel and on the seats near her were the previous Winning Wheel winners.
"You wouldn't get odds on that. We all got stuck into the bubbles - it was a great flight."
"[The Lotto money] was there to be enjoyed and I have enjoyed it.
"I'm not the richest person in town so it's allowed me to, when I see something and think 'I would quite like that', I sometimes just get it."
Lesley said her experience showed that big Lotto winners could go public in New Zealand without huge consequences.
Fellow Winning Wheel winner Tikokino farmer Bruce Worsnop agrees.
Worsnop said there had been no negative feedback at all after his $200,000 win in 2012. In fact it was the time of his life.
Worsnop, who was flown down to Wellington and put up in a "monster" bed at the Intercontinental Hotel, was given money for a suit because the minders around him at Lotto worried he would look "a bit raggy" on air.
"The whole thing was quite exhilarating, the anticipation of it was immense.
"Once it was over though, being humble farmer folk we just went back to work the next week.
"It didn't change anything for us because $200,000 gets lost pretty quickly in the farm system."
Worsnop, who gives to charities every year, only plays Lotto occasionally now.
He reckons Lotto should bring back the wheel.
"I think other people in the community got a real kick out of it - it was exciting and it brought the community together in front of the telly, rather than just guessing who might have won the prize.
"It gave Lotto something more, you know? A district somewhere in New Zealand was mentioned every week. It gave Lotto a local face."
Worsnop said he understands why most people shy away from publicity after Lotto wins.
"Most people that win the big ones don't want to be known and I understand that.
"It's quite a game-changer and the thought of everyone knowing that can be hard.
"But for me, I never saw it as a game-changer - it was just one of those really exciting things that happens and I'm so glad it did."
Lotto spokeswoman Marie Winfield said the Winning Wheel was retired in 2015 because Lotto wanted to evolve to more modern games.
"We have no plans to reintroduce it, as our focus has been on creating new and exciting ways that our players can win prizes."
She said examples of those have included adding division 7, which means players who have three numbers win a bonus ticket, and increasing the threshold for Must Be Won draws to $50m.
Winfield said community pride was still a part of Lotto's live draw, with regular profiles of recipients of grants.
"We are proud that Lotto NZ funding is making a positive difference to the lives of New Zealanders all around the country."
WINNING WHEEL - THE STATS:
• 571 winners (539 cash, 32 non-cash)
• 19 millionaires
• First millionaire: September 3, 2005 – Kathy from Whakatane
• Last millionaire: June 27, 2015 – Margaret from Auckland
• $114,091,490 paid out in prizes
• Average prize amount $200,000
• 21 Hawke's Bay winners
• First Hawke's Bay winner: November 27, 2004. Dennis won a cruise and $30,000
• Hawke's Bay millionaire: August 18, 2007, David