Richest Kiwis add $1.1 billion to their fortunes as poor see their wealth plummet

As New Zealand's two richest people added more than $1 billion to their fortunes between 2017 and 2018, the poorest half of the country saw their wealth drop significantly, according to a new Oxfam report.

On Monday, Oxfam released its Public Good or Private Wealth? report, which revealed Aotearoa's wealthiest 5 percent collectively own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent - and the gap is widening.

Using figures taken from the Credit Suisse Wealth Databook and the annual Forbes 'Billionaires List', the report found Graeme Hart and Richard Chandler, the two richest New Zealanders, saw their fortunes grow by $1.1 billion.

Mr Hart and Mr Chandler are New Zealand's only billionaires, with Forbes attributing both men's wealth to investments.

As their wealth grew, the poorest half of New Zealand saw their wealth plummet by $1.3 billion.

The report suggests the Government is contributing to inequality by under-funding public services like healthcare and education, while under-taxing corporations and the rich.

"We know inequality is harmful for us all. It perpetuates poverty, erodes trust, fuels crime, makes us unhappy, negates economic growth, and robs opportunity from the poorest - including shortening their lives," Rachael Le Mesurier, executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, said.

Ms Le Mesurier also said women suffer the most due to fewer work opportunities than men to get paid work, getting paid less, and being less able to invest in assets.

To create a fairer society, Ms Le Mesurier said it was important to introduce greater transparency to the tax system, including for multinational organisations and wealthy individuals which she believes are not paying their fair share.

"One of the key things we can do to tackle inequality here and across the world is to tax wealth more. Our taxes pay for schools, hospitals, and infrastructure such as communications and roads on which we all rely."

She hopes the Government's Tax Working Group, which is set to release its final report early this year, recommends "greater wealth taxes and more transparency" - bold actions necessary to reduce inequality.

The report also found that the fortunes of billionaires internationally increased by 12 percent, equal to US$2.5 billion a day.

Oxfam suggests making the richest one percent of people internationally pay 0.5 percent more in tax could raise more money than it would cost to educate the 262 million children not in school.

The release of Oxfam's report was scheduled to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is currently attending.

Oxfam is a part of the Fight Inequality Alliance, a coalition of social and environment groups and unions, which is currently hosting events around the world at the same time as the forum.

"We will be calling on their leaders to listen to ordinary people's demands and solutions to dealing with inequality, and not to the elites at Davos".