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Carmel Fisher poo-poos tall poppy syndrome; finds out what we can learn from mining heiress Gina Reinhart; a "vindictive, slothful and devious baby elephant."

Carmel Fisher poo-poos tall poppy syndrome; finds out what we can learn from mining heiress Gina Reinhart; a "vindictive, slothful and devious baby elephant."

Mining heiress and leading rich-lister Gina Reinhart

By Carmel Fisher*

The tall poppy syndrome is a situation where people who are successful are cut down, or resented, because their talents and achievements elevate them above their peers.

I always thought it was peculiar to New Zealand, but it seems that tall poppies are found universally, and the syndrome has existed for more than a century. I

I was intrigued to see it alive and well in response to the headline that Australian mining heir Gina Reinhart will become the world’s wealthiest person. Most of the criticism centred on the fact she has too much money and should share it around.

The headline grabbed my attention because I always enjoy reading the stories behind wealthy people – you can’t help but learn something. I had obviously heard of wealthy Australians such as James Packer, Frank Lowy and Gerry Harvey.

However, Gina Reinhart’s story is relatively new as her wealth doubled to $A10.3 billion in the last year, thanks to the seemingly unstoppable commodities boom.

What makes her story even more interesting is that her wealth is literally hers, whereas the big fortunes around the world are often shared by families, or multiple shareholders.

Reinhart is the only child of mining magnate Lang Hancock and was brought up on a 24-billion tonne iron ore deposit in Western Australia.

Lesson one: find a big bit of dirt to build your house on – you never know what it might be worth one day.

She started an economics degree, but joined the family business.

Lesson two, you can learn as much as you can from a traditional education.

Where the story gets interesting (or have I paid too much attention to the tall-poppy knockers?) is that she did not get on with her father’s second wife, Rose, a Filipino housekeeper who was hired to look after Gina’s ageing father, and ended up marrying him.

Relations became so difficult that the father apparently described his daughter as “a vindictive, slothful and devious baby elephant."

Lesson three, it helps if you can remain single-minded and develop a really thick skin.

Gina spent 14 years fighting with Rose over her father’s estate, and eventually took over the family company and expanded it over the course of a decade.

As impressive as her story has been to date, it is her future potential that prompted the wealthiest person alive headline.

Lesson four, think long-term and plan accordingly.

If her three mining projects scheduled to start in the next two years are as successful as her past projects, and if her commodity prices remain high, her personal net worth could reach $A100 billion, putting her ahead of Bill Gates and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slin.

I think the story of Gina Reinhart is interesting and instructive, but her critics think differently. I wonder if she cares.

Lesson five, ignore them all.

*Carmel Fisher is managing director of Fisher Funds Management.

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I thought lesson one was to make sure your father was a successful miner and businessman!

I actually think the tall poppy syndrome does a bit deeper than that. What people really resent is how many people you have burnt along the way to get rich.

What is also apparent to many, but not to those who have the riches, is that they are born with the attributes that permit them to take at the expense or others or the environment.

We are immature in our approach to wealth, because fiscal wealth seems to be the goal. In Scandinavia it is not socially acceptable to disply your wealth, although wealth isn't necessarily a problem. As a result wealth isn't the 'end', and a more holistic approach is formed. Much more stable and happier societies there.

I think the biggest myth of all is the 'worked hard' for what I have one, implying that others don't work hard. It is quite a self centred attitude that is probably accompanied by a lack of intellect.

And if you call me a socialist, then you will really prove my point.

You closet Capitalist's the property investment portfolio doing?

Is that a contrarian signal? :)

 In today’s world – from the top 1’000 richest people of each country most should be in jail. They either rip off other people, the planet or both. In today’s world - more then 10 million is pooring ugly.

 Look around you !!!

Trillions of “wealth money” could be “invested’ to make the world a better place, but no trillions are wasted, because of short term greedy profit, destroying life’s and environment.

Do you have kids – then you should be on the street tomorrow- at least holding a poster up – “Stop Greed”

MartyH  (I looked for you in the alumni listings - you must correct the omission)


I look around and see a modern country, modern transport, indusrty, hospitals etc.

Can you tell me what, if anything, of what you see, was created without the use of fossil energy?

And how did you like your physics-free weekend?  No fuel used? No heat given off? No switches turned on/off? No food consumed?




It's all about 'from here on'.

I think I'll put you down as both a 'don't care', and a 'don;t care to know'.

Don't bother postulating about economics, though, until you've unticked those boxes, please.

No economic activity happens without energy being expended. The quality/quantity (call it the 'profit energy') peaked about 2004/5/6, and has undulated since.

Do you think usury, profit and growth - jointly or severally - can outsurvive that point?

Via efficiencies or?


Martyh - incorrect. I offer solutions, at all levels. I also walk the walk, talk the talk. Longer-stayed posters will tell you I have one of (if not the) the most energy-efficient houses around, and if your yardstick is $ (it's semi-valid as in: it has to be earned by resource depletion too) then I pulled it off for precious few of them (50,000 for 135 sq/m). It is entirely energy self-sufficient, could be food-wise if we narrowed our diet, is carbon-wise better than neutral....

The car comment just shows how pre-tangled you mental web is. Try studying the Jevons Paradox, and have a wee think about how growth swamps efficiency, if numbers arent capped in real terms.

The correct amount is an invalid question. It can be as much as you gan get hold of.  The question is 'how sustainable is it', and that includes its URR, it's EROEI, its efficiency on conversion to work (that's all it's for) and the mitigation - unfudged - of it's pollution/disposal. Only renewable ticks the boxes, and all renewable is solar in origin.

The problem - and it's where we are now - is that if you wait untill you are atop the gaussian curve of supply of one source (fossil fuels) then your morph to another must incur a triage of existing activities. Sure, it can be done, but you won't be 'growing' any proxy-counting systems during the process. Not that can be underwritten, at least.

Welcome to the why of 2000-8. Expectations of proxy-redemption overran the ability of energy-supply to underwrite.

Do they not address the fundamental limits to growth at the LSE?

Bit of an oversight.



If everyone lives like me, then no, unfortunately that isn't enough.

There are now too many 'everyones' on this little spaceship. That has happened (as exponential growth are wont to do) in my lifetime. I've been warning since '75.

That correction will happen - the question is whether we do it in a controlled manner, or whether it goes uncontrolled.

Physicists will tell you that we got the boost (from muscle-energy subsistence to using fossil fuel as if we have 300-1000 slaves apiece) from carbon-chains accumulated over aeons. It won't be there for the next attempt. Meaning that if we drop the ball this time, there probably won't be a next.

On the price of energy, we are agreed. Unfortunately, it is intrinsic in everything - no exceptions. Bollard and Birol both call the 'economics is-in-trouble' line at 'over US$100/barrel - although the US ain't exactly a line in the sand. I suggest that current fiscal systems collapse at some energy-price point, when supply plateaus.

That leaves legislation - controls via laws and numbers, as the only method with a chance of succeeding. By the style of you I'd have placed you as a free-marketeer....



Marty you indicate you have a desire to think outwardly but your life experience which is very clearly stated by your words is still limiting your thought. As long as you have a desire to learn & grow & prepared to challenge what you have been taught during your life , you might get to a state of understanding.
Yes I want less control is certain ways as I've talked about but in others there needs to be a discussion about having more strategic , long term deliverables. It comes down to people taking responsibility & having the desire to involve themselves is a functioning sustainable environment, or potentially living in a nightmare. Some think technology will save us , I say it will save some of us, but probably not most. Either people engage & demand that grown up debate & discussion happens, or suffer with what we get. If we chose the latter then it WILL be very ugly IMO.

Marty, a politician is the last thing I want to sound like , and if you read my posts clearly then you might read them as being internally neutral, which is a core aim of mine.
The deliverables are in my plan & i am keeping to myself as previously stated. Collective thought & cohesive action without selfishness will bring about the appropriate deliverables without me needing to broadcast what I think they should be , it's not about that. Stop being restricted by out of date requirements & then accountability comes to the fore

Yes people think nothing of lying all the time & don't even see their words as dishonest. Solutions are good marty but the how to get to the best outcome for large numbers is hugely complex , even though I don't believe it needs to be.
What I have is an idea , some very capable friends who are onboard , & an attitude of , if I don't at least try something then perhaps my capabilities should have gone to someone more appreciative & with bigger kahunas. Not trying is the only failure

"marty h" @ 1.36.

Why is it folk like you - 100% of you - fudge 'advocating' with 'warning'?

Smarter, more innovative?  Show me them. They certainly aren't to be found in the lackey-hacks of either main party. Nor the others - although the Greens are the closest philosophically.

I've been down this track for 30 years, and I'm not exactly un-informed. Then it goes back to the first comment - if you keep growing exponentially, no amount of intelligence will save you. (On the law of averages, there would have been 30 geniuses drowned when the Titanic went down - at a certain point, you just aren't smart enough, no matter what).

I don't necessarily want a 'strong state', either. A mature society might do it too - but I think we're out of time. Certainly the 'free market' won't do it - it's only reactive.




The correct amount of energy is that which can be sustained.

We are currently burning oil on an annual basis that would take 400 years to replace.

If you can't afford that expensive car, then the chances are the car isn't actually efficient when embodied energy is taken into account. You can always decide to use your existing car less.

I have posted about urban design before, and basically if you have to drive to work then that is all wrong, not just from an energy point by from the community angle also. You make the decision as to where to live, shop and work.

I am guessing you could afford a bicycle?

PDK keep at it , because it is relevant & important the message you repeat. What it shows is the enormous task of enabling people to open their minds from the prison they have had built around them. Or perhaps the fleuride has taken it's toll. Either way , just keep plugging away , because those who don't get it will be the first asking for help or advice or crying " we didn't see it coming"

LloydM - cheers, I enjoy every minute - it's my relief when I'm doing my real writing/research.

I used to get down and personal, but history tell us that it's not worth blaming or pillorying.

Best just to get the message across clearly. Whay I find most interesting, is the lessening of confidence in the free-marketeers, the lessening of surety, lack of conviction. It's like they're  more and more just going through the motions.

Quite appropriate, given some of our waterways.     :)

go well


Fluoride, tells me you have a macro perspective:)

I've got macro portals      :)

This "Tall Poppy" thing is really getting a bit tired Carmel.

What I can see isn't resentment of success it's a healthy loathing of the "do you know who I am" arrogance that often accompanies it. Do we resent the Ed Hillaries or Steve Tindalls for their success? These folk are respected as much for their humility and for their help to others as they are for success in their ventures.

If that's the Kiwi "Tall Poppy Syndrome" then it's one of the very best things about this country.

Carmel, the problem with Gina Reinhart is that she's had an unfair advantage..she inherited a mining company from her Dad...the same with the Packers, Murdochs etc...we need 100% inheritance taxes, that way everyone begins the race from the same starting line...

Blow it out your ear Ricardo...just try to accept reality...yes she was daddy's little Elephant but so what....your silly 100% theft of property to prevent inheritance is pure socialist drivel....and worse than that, it leads to people either concluding there is no gain to be had from saving to pass on wealth unless it avoids the thieving tax...which leads to the thieving tax being next to useless.

Wolly, I'm not a socialist buddy...sounds like you have warm fuzzy feelings about handing your loot onto the kids...I believe wealth and opportunity should be distributed in relation to one's talent, not on the basis of who your Dad was...there are 1000's of people just as capable as Gina Reinhart, but they achieve far less, because Gina has inherited the wealth from Daddy...similar to being a runner in the 100m sprints at the Olympics, and if your Dad was rich you can start the race 5 metres from the finish line...

The "fuzzy feelings" may be more about handing the loot onto the if it deserves it more than the kids and will use it in a better way.

As for this lady, she hardly chose who her daddy was. Can't understand the resentment really. Clearly she's been financially lucky, good on her (and let's hope she uses some of her weath to do some good around her). But why the jealousy? Being born a heir(ess) comes with disadvantages too I'm sure and just because she has money doesn't mean she'll live a happier life than any of us. Gosh, just try and enjoy what you do have instead of being green with envy at what others have (and wanting to take it from them)!

Elley, think about it...any inheritance tax will be offset by lower income taxes...we could have an inheritance tax of 100%, and say income tax at less than 10%...that way, in this capitalist society we live in, all people have an equal shot at acquiring their own capital base, and then taking risks and starting's fair for everyone....James Packer inheriting $5 billion and having control over entire industries is unfair - just because his old man was Kerry Packer, and Kerry's Dad was Frank Packer, and Frank's Dad was Robert Packer..and so on and so forth....

Ricardo --- I think you'll find Gina Rheinhart inherited a debt ridden company on the verge of collapse. Yes her timing of getting control of the company helped ( timing in terms of the mining commodity upturn) , but she had stuck in there with the family fights to be there at the right time.

Tall poppy & the disapproval of those who have stolen using various advantages & or tactics is not the same thing. To understand those who are revered amongst the ill-informed , one must understand the history of many systems to see exactly how such companies & people were able to amass such financial wealth. Read, research & repeat.
Oh & why on earth should people give away 100% to govt on departing ? Stolen or amassed honestly with integrity is not even the point here. Crazy crazy ideas

Ricardo, if you care to look - Gina Reinhart didn't get an easy ride on this - apart from the company nearly collapsed - she aslo had a tough fight with her step-mother for the inheritance!

What a pathetic article - I'm with Wolly here - the only lesson one can take from Ms Rinehart's fortune is to choose your parents wisely. Oh and this is pretty much meaningless:

"If her three mining projects scheduled to start in the next two years are as successful as her past projects, and if her commodity prices remain high, her personal net worth could reach $A100 billion, putting her ahead of Bill Gates and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slin [sic]."

There's a couple of huge if's in that sentence. And I don't think Messsers Gates and Slim's fortunes are going to stay static...

David B

I have deleted your comment because of your use of a swearword.

Please don't do it again.



While ago, our rental car parked at Wesfield Manukau car park and was coined with the word "Rich Btch".  It was a Honda Accord Euro and had Avis sticker in the back window.   So I'm afraid... the tall poppies syndrome is alive and kicking! (FYI, we booked for a Toyota Yaris and got an Accord)

Very sad for sure. It is the legacy of political failure of the worst kind. People learn by expample , so when society is attacked via destructive policy , and some sections of it favored over others & used for political gain, we end up with what we have today.
Nz is at a cross roads , do we let it continue or do we start working together. By that I mean society as a whole , because we have been told to see eachother as enemies by vested interests. Only when kiwis choose to work together or at least not work against can we have change. Most of those being used the worst will not be allowed to understand the extent their lives have been deliberately messed up.

Westfield, well there is a problem in itself. Why the hell anyone would want to go there beats me.

A part of the legacy is urban design. You actually have to design for community.

If you get it right the opportunity for antisocial behaviour is greatly reduced(criminals or leaders).

To me (the victim) this is just jealousy (tall poppies) for driving a nicer car than whoever did it.  Any other reasons suck as urban design, community or Westfiled for that matter are just lame weak excuses or franly thet are just BS!

CM with respect & not knowing you at all, sounds like your Victoria Uni education did not teach you some basics.
Ironically it is a lack of education , poor role models , parents or leaders whatever you want to call them & poor policy which breed this behavior. It does not excuse it. Jealousy is one cause of what you refer to as tall poppy syndrome. The root causes are able to be addressed to some degree in a mature country , which Nz clearly is not. This again I put down to deliberate social design.

I blame the parents


With statistics about like 80% of maori children born into a family without a father, your comment is probably more correct as 'parent'. Go back a bit further and you could look at the DPB.

Lots of problems CM, but where are your realistic solutions.

I don't mean palm it off to someone esle, what do you do personally? Do you give up some hours of work and donate some time to take a troubled youth under you wing? If not you then who? 

Notwithstanding all that, you don't get the design bit. I have accumulated this information not only through my study of Archtecture, but also through my previous profession. You CAN design to restrict the opportunity for crime. You can also design spaces for good community, and it sure as hell isn't Westfield. A wrecking ball would be the most appropriate solution there.

When I was at Victoria Uni - we once had a guest lecturer on social behaviour.  The lecturer gave two examples of tall poppies syndromes; the envious ones will deface your properties (like your car), while the other one will steal what ever you owned because they wanted to be like you.  You can guess what level we are in...

Carmel has introduced a lesson six as well.

It's add a bit of sex appeal to the marketing. Has anyone noticed her more recent newspaper ads for business...reclining in a chair...bit of leg showing...

Might have to review my attitude to Kiwisaver perhaps?


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See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.