Auckland couple behind $25m Abel Tasman restoration

Last updated 12:00 15/03/2014

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The identity of the mystery philanthropists behind Project Janszoon has been revealed.

They are Annette and Neal Plowman, an Auckland couple who have committed $25 million to the restoration of the Abel Tasman National Park over 30 years.

Yesterday they were unmasked when they stepped out from behind the family trust that had funded previous endeavours to establish the NEXT Foundation, a $100m philanthropic foundation that will support and invest in high impact New Zealand-based environmental and education projects.

The Plowmans made their fortune from a laundry business, founded in 1910 by George Plowman, that became New Zealand Towel Services and was sold to an American company in 1998.

The Plowmans have supported several significant philanthropic projects, including the Rotoroa Island Trust in the Hauraki Gulf and Teach First NZ which aims to tackle educational inequality.

Mr Plowman has said he believes everybody who has enough disposable income should invest in some philanthropic activity.

"In the US, it's normal for businesses to put at least 10 per cent of their capital wealth into endowment funds for the future of everybody - not just their family or business."

Mr Plowman was inducted into the Fairfax Media Business Hall of Fame in 2007.

The NEXT Foundation will make commitments of approximately $5m to $15m in up to three projects each year. Any individual or group with a high impact, well-structured idea in the areas of education or environment will be able to apply for funding.

The Foundation has an advisory panel of notable New Zealanders who will help with project selection and a board of directors chaired by Chris Liddell.

Mr Liddell, also chairman of Xero, and previously vice-chairman of General Motors and chief financial officer of Microsoft Corporation, says education and the environment have been chosen as the two categories for support and investment because they have the greatest potential to inspire and create lasting value for New Zealanders.

"We have a vision of creating a legacy of environmental and educational excellence for the benefit of future generations of New Zealanders," Mr Liddell said.

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- The Nelson Mail


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