Smith: Deal has blown me away

BILL MOORE
Last updated 12:00 22/03/2014

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Conservation Minister Nick Smith has hailed the Next Foundation's $100 million "incredible deed of generosity" and says it can deliver huge conservation gains through a new accord with the Government.

Foundation chairman Chris Liddell and Dr Smith were to sign the accord at Nelson's Melrose House this afternoon.

It commits the Government to maintain long-term results for parts of the conservation estate where philanthropic investment has delivered significant, measurable ecological enhancement.

Next is a new $100m philanthropic foundation, established to invest in high impact New Zealand-based environmental and education projects. Its founders, Auckland couple Annette and Neal Plowman, have previously invested in conservation projects on Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf and Project Janszoon's 30-year ecological restoration of the Abel Tasman National Park, which will be one of the first to benefit from the accord.

The foundation, launched last week, says it has a vision of creating a legacy of environmental and educational excellence for the benefit of future generations. It will make commitments of about $5m-$15m each year for 10 years.

Mr Liddell said the accord set a framework for "transformational partnerships" in environmental conservation.

"This is a tremendous initiative which will secure the conservation achievements of Next and other like minded-philanthropists for the long-term benefit of New Zealand," he said.

It was consistent with the thinking behind the foundation and the successful partnership with the Department of Conservation in Project Janszoon, he said.

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

Dr Smith said he was "gobsmacked" when he learned that the foundation was putting up $100m, an act of generosity with the potential for huge steps forward for conservation.

The first key element of the accord was ensuring that the funds went to projects outside work the Government would have ordinarily done. The second was in providing a commitment that the conservation gains were maintained.

It was part of DOC's new direction of partnering with businesses and community groups, he said, and under the accord's "high-level agreement" there would be a legally-binding contract for each specific project.

Dr Smith said he was "blown away" when he learned the foundation was prepared to commit so much money.

"When we launched this new approach last year I didn't in my wildest dreams think that we would score a commitment as significant as this, and I'm hugely encouraged by it."

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- The Nelson Mail

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