Arise, Sir Michael Hill

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Arrowtown jewellery magnate Michael Hill receives a knighthood in the New Year Honours List released today.

The high-profile entrepreneur, whose jewellery store chain bearing his name operates in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US, is originally from Whangarei but settled in the Wakatipu in 1994.

His then pink-coloured mansion attracted negative comment from the council of the time.

Hill was Ernst & Young’s New Zealand entrepreneur of the year in 2008, but his honour probably owes just as much to his cultural and sporting philanthropy.

A talented violinist, he sponsors the biennial Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

Hill developed a private 18-hole golf course on his property near Arrowtown, which has hosted the past three New Zealand Opens.

Frustratingly for Hill and the local community, New Zealand Golf still has to confirm whether The Hills will host the next NZ Open, amidst rumours a deal has been done to hold it at Christchurch’s Clearwater course.

Hill, 72, is also a major donor to children’s health research charity Cure Kids, which gets the proceeds of his book sales – his latest book, Think Bigger, was in reprint 10 days after publication.

Hill credits his wife, now Christine Lady Hill, as a major influence on his business career, especially through her artistic talents.

In 2008 their motor yacht VvS1, which they designed themselves, won the World Superyacht Award for craft between 30m and 49.9m.

Asked how he feels, Hill yesterday said: “It’s a pretty humbling experience and pretty daunting because you’ve got to be a role model for the country, and wow, that’s quite something. 

“I’ll do my best.” 

Will the knighthood change him? 

“Nothing will change, one would hate to get egotistical or think you’re up yourself. 

“Just be yourself, do your best, enjoy life, have a balance and never think you’re any different than anyone else because we’re not really, we’re just normal people.” 

And his ambitions for 2011? 

“I would hope to get the Open, I’ve got the violin competition, where the standard is so high, and we’ve got big things for the company – we’ll be exploring new countries. 

“There’s an awful lot on. 

“The only thing that’s really bad is my golf.”