Revealed: New Zealand's growing wealth gap 'fracturing society'

Rich poor sign
Two New Zealanders now own more wealth than 30 percent of the country's adult population. (Getty)

Global charity organisation Oxfam has released new figures on Monday that show the gap between the very rich and very poor is growing.

New Zealand's two richest people now own more wealth than 30 percent of the adult population combined.

Graeme Hart and Richard Chandler have net worths of $8.98 billion and $3.79 billion respectively. Last year Mr Chandler was named as using the law firm Mossack Fonseca, which was at the centre of the Panama Papers tax avoidance controversy.

The Oxfam research also reveals that the richest one percent now hold 20 percent of the wealth in New Zealand, while 90 percent of the population owns less than half of the nation's wealth.

Rachael Le Mesurier, executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, said the organisation was shocked to discover the level of wealth inequality in the country.

"The gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us is greater than we thought.

"It is trapping huge numbers of people in poverty and fracturing our societies, as seen in New Zealand in the changing profile of home ownership."

The Inland Revenue's high-wealth individuals unit shows the number of the wealthiest Kiwis jumped by almost 20 per cent between October 2015 and June 2016, from 212 people worth more than $50 million to 252.

Incredibly, over a third of the 252 extremely wealthy declared income of less than $70,000 in 2015, despite $70,000 being the point where the top tax rate kicks in. 

A number of the extremely rich are linked to entities in dispute with the IRD over nearly $111 million in unpaid tax.

New Zealand following worldwide trends

The Oxfam research also shows that just eight people worldwide own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.

The report, entitled 'An economy for the 99 percent', outlines how the super-rich use a network of tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of tax.

The analysis also reveals over half of the world's billionaires either inherited their wealth or accumulated it through industries which are prone to corruption.

Women still facing discrimination and mass-inequality

Oxfam say it will take another 170 years for women to be paid the same as men if worldwide trends continue.

The organisation interviewed women working in a garment factory in Vietnam who spend 12 hours a day, six days a week at work, and still struggle to get by on the $1 an hour they earn for producing clothes for some of the world's biggest fashion brands. The CEOs of these companies are some of the highest paid people in the world.   

Oxfam's report shows how broken economies are funnelling wealth to the rich elite at the expense of women employed in low paid sectors.

Poor countries and children being short-changed

According to Oxfam, corporate tax dodging is costing poorer countries at least $140 billion every year. This is enough money to provide education for 124 million children worldwide who aren't currently in school.  

It would also be enough to fund healthcare for these children and help prevent the deaths of at least six million of them each year.