OPINION: The rich list of the country's most wealthy individuals and families is more than just an opportunity for the majority of us to look and wonder what it would be like to have that much money.
Yesterday, the National Business Review released its 2011 list and there would have been much chit chat about who was on it, and who wasn't.
Apart from a clever marketing ploy for the weekly newspaper, the list serves as something of an economic barometer for the country.
There is a bit of speculation and guesswork in making the list, but it does show which sectors are going strong and which are under pressure and sliding down the scale.
It also shows the ups and downs of business life in New Zealand and which people, families and businesses are doing well.
Or, to put it another way, which rich people are doing better or worse than the year before.
Those ups and downs are as interesting as the new additions.
But there are also the stalwarts. Graeme Hart and the mysterious Chandler brothers are always near the top of the pile, as are the Todd family, Sir Douglas Myers, Sir Michael Fay and his former colleague David Richwhite.
Many of those are virtual recluses, not doing interviews and barely seen in public. They seem keen on aggregating their wealth, or at least retaining their position in the pecking order.
We have our own home-grown rich listers, the Higgins family.
The Manawatu-based family has built a construction and roading empire from here and maintained it for more than half a century.
But, as many groups and organisations can attest, with that wealth comes a strong sense of community and giving back.
Sir Patrick Higgins' knighthood earlier this year was recognition not only of his generosity, but that of his wider family and the Higgins Group company.
Like those at the top of the rich list, the Higgins family don't court public attention.
The major difference is that they give back to the community in a range of ways and stay loyal to the region that has been so good to them.
One more thing: Has one penguin ever had as much attention as the misguided Happy Feet, which landed on Peka Peka Beach last month? While spending thousands of dollars on one creature to keep it alive has been a bone of contention for some people, a massive number of people have been enamoured of the creature during its time at Wellington Zoo. Now, with a bit more weight on its frame, it looks like the flightless bird could be heading home. Don't expect the attention to stop any time soon.
- © Fairfax NZ News