Hill the jewel among southern wealthy

POSH PLACE:  Sir Michael Hill at The Hills golf course near Arrowtown.
POSH PLACE: Sir Michael Hill at The Hills golf course near Arrowtown.

Sir Michael Hill is the wealthiest man in the south with an estimated $300 million, according to the latest assessment of the country's wealthiest people's fortunes.

The National Business Review placed Arrowtown-based jeweller Hill in 35th equal place on the list released yesterday - a climb from the 64th place he occupied last year with the same estimated wealth.

His company, Michael Hill International Jewellery, is expanding with a new range of stores opening in Australia but he is also known for his impressive golf course The Hills, a superyacht and sponsorship of the biennial Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

However, he has some financial distance to move to catch up on the wealthiest overseas investors in the area.

American billionaire and philanthropist Julian Robertson has investments in Queenstown including the exclusive Matakauri Lodge and is said to be worth $3.6 billion.

Dowager Duchess Henrietta Bedford is British blueblood but has about $12m of her $1.25b invested in retail stores in Invercargill. She also has an alpine home near Arrowtown.

Invercargill's Richardson family crept up on the list from 74th place last year with $250m to 48th this year with $270m.

Established by Bill Richardson, the HW Richardson trucking group formed the basis of the company, which today employs 1500 people and operates about 900 heavy trucks and 400 light vehicles.

These days they operate in transport, ready-mix concrete, petroleum distribution, contracting and aggregates and waste as well as continuing the trucking legacy with a trucking museum, which will open to the public next year.

The Skeggs family is expanding its interests in the southern region through its ownership of Southern Discoveries tourism company and now has its busy head office based in Frankton.

Growth this year included a new multimillion-dollar catamaran operating on Lake Wakatipu. The family also owns Skeggs Bluff Oysters in the deep south, and NBR estimates it to be worth $150m - a $50m increase on last year.

Queenstown accountant Barry Thomas retains only a 5.8 per cent share in Skyline Enterprises but has increased his worth from $115m last year to $125m this year - putting him in 106th place.

Also based in Queenstown, Sir John Davies and Sir Eion Edgar have remained level-pegged.

Last year, the magazine estimated their fortunes at $95m, putting them 116th on the list. This year, they occupy the same spot but are thought to be worth $100m.

Davies added to his tourism portfolio last year with the purchase of the Speight's Coast to Coast race and has been investing significantly in NZSki facilities.

Edgar is well known for his philanthropy and remains chairman of sharebroker Forsyth Barr.

The New Zealand list is led once again by Auckland businessman Graeme Hart, said to be worth $7b.

The Southland Times