Neal and Annette Plowman
New Zealand’s leading philanthropic couple, Neal and Annette Plowman, are exemplary Kiwis whose generous contributions to various community and conservation initiatives such as the Salvation Army, University of Auckland and conservation efforts at Abel Tasman National Park and Rotorua Island has had an immeasurably positive impact on New Zealand. They are two of New Zealand’s most generous and truly humble individuals.
Neal and Annette made their fortune from a laundry business, founded in 1910 by George Plowman, that became New Zealand Towel Services. They successfully grew the business, listed it on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, before privatising in 1986, and selling the company to US firm Alsco in 1998. They also founded and sold multiplex cinema chain, Hoyts.
Neal and Annette, have been major supporters of the Salvation Army for over 30 years and the University of Auckland (UoA), and UoA Business School since 2003 – including towards the establishment of a Chair of Entrepreneurship. They are also major supporters of Teach First NZ – an innovative not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with the UoA to place carefully selected teachers and inspirational leaders into lower decile schools to help improve educational achievement.
The couple negotiated a 99-year lease of Rotoroa Island creating a conservation park and enabling public access to the island for the first time in over 100 years. They also formed a partnership with the Department of Conservation on a 30-year project to restore and conserve the native ecology of Abel Tasman National Park, ending in 2024.
In 2014, Neal and Annette founded the NEXT Foundation, to administer a 10-year, NZD $100 million programme of strategic philanthropy. The Foundation donates NZD $5 – $15 million per year to no more than three major environmental or educational initiatives deemed to have the potential to be nationally transformative.
They are also a major donor towards the Turner Centre in Kerikeri, a modern, multi-purpose, performing arts complex. Annette continues to be involved as the Centre’s patron.
Neal was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame in 2007 and also shortlisted for New Zealander of the Year in 2012.