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A significant jump in the combined wealth of the richest 150 New Zealanders is being held up as an example of the country's growing gap between rich and poor.
The 2011 National Business Review Rich List, released yesterday, showed the combined wealth of New Zealand's richest at its highest ever level -- up about 20 percent from $38.2 billion to $45.2b.
Auckland-based businessman Graeme Hart retained his position at the top of list with a $6.5b fortune, while Waikato-raised investor Richard Chandler came in second on $4b, and the Todd family third on $2.7b.
Labour leader Phil Goff said he congratulated those on the list, but said it was not right that while some were doing so well there were others who we struggling to survive.
"Our society is becoming more unequal. While the rich are getting richer, middle and low-income families are struggling to put food on the table, petrol in the car and to heat their homes.'
Mr Goff used the opportunity to push the party's recently announced tax policy, which would introduce a capital gains tax on investment properties.
"Many of those on the Rich List will have made their fortunes from capital gains that have gone untaxed while the average working Kiwi got a below inflation pay rise of 1.9 percent and they pay tax on every dollar they earn," he said.
The Green Party has also used the list to question income inequality, saying if the $13 minimum wage had increased at the same rate as the wealth of the richest New Zealanders it would be $15.60.
"While the NBR celebrates the richest New Zealanders getting richer it is important to remember that one quarter of all New Zealand children are growing up in poverty, that's about 270,000 kids," co-leader Metiria Turei said.
"The NBR rich list serves as a wake up call on inequality in New Zealand. We need policies to raise the income levels of the least well off."