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2018 Kea Awards: Neal and Annette Plowman crowned Supreme winners and brothers Brian and Matthew Monahan win Kea Friend of New Zealand Award

On Thursday, the Auckland Viaduct Events Centre housed a sell-out crowd for the World Class New Zealand Awards gala dinner, which celebrated the creamiest crop of entrepreneurs and innovators on New Zealand shores. Key highlights saw Neal and Annette Plowman awarded the 2018 Kea World Class New Zealand (WCNZ) Supreme Award – and American born brothers, Brian and Matthew Monahan, named the 2018 Kea Friends of New Zealand Award. 

The black-tie affair saw Neal and Annette Plowman celebrated for their charitable contribution to New Zealand, most recently through the NEXT Foundation, which they established four years ago, with $100 million to be gifted over the next 10 years.

NEXT invests in transformational initiatives in education and the environment, looking for step-change solutions to address some of the country’s most challenging problems, including a predator-free New Zealand, equity in our education system and supporting babies and their parents in the first 1000 days of life.

Kea Global CEO Craig Donaldson says the Plowmans are exemplary Kiwis whose generous contribution to various community, education and conservation initiatives has had an immeasurably positive impact on New Zealand.

"Neal and Annette are two of New Zealand's most generous and truly humble individuals – their strategic philanthropy fund, NEXT Foundation, has already touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders.

“Through NEXT they support initiatives such as the Taranaki Mounga project, Zero Invasive Predators, Talking Matters and Manaiakalani. But prior to setting up NEXT they were major donors to environmental projects like Rotoroa Island and Project Janszoon in the Abel Tasman National Park – as well as The University of Auckland, The Salvation Army, Auckland City Mission and Lifeline. Their contributions are too many to list.”

Chief executive officer of NEXT Foundation Bill Kermode says, “I hugely admire Neal and Annette’s generosity, their passion for helping other New Zealanders, and their humility. 

“They have an appetite for the big issues. They do not want to just help some people out, they want to address the root causes, and change systems.  They are after breakthroughs, not band-aids. They are a truly inspirational couple and the recognition by Kea is thoroughly deserved.” 

The couple, who typically prefer to remain in the background, used the occasion to encourage other wealthy New Zealanders to consider the benefits of strategic philanthropy and other models of ‘giving back’ – such as the golden figure in philanthropy of ‘giving away fifty per cent of your wealth’ in your lifetime, which the Plowmans intend to do.

In addition to the Plowmans success, last night’s ceremony also celebrated joint recipients for its Friend of New Zealand Award – brothers Brian and Matthew Monahan. The US expats were recognised for their contribution to New Zealand’s innovation landscape, notably the establishment of the Wellington-based organisation, Kiwi Connect, and their ongoing work with the Edmund Hillary Fellowship.

While much has been investigated into the legitimacy of the two starry-eyed leftist entrepreneurs – and their questionable ability to meddle with our immigration policy – it’s hard to fault their dedication to fostering global entrepreneurial talent into New Zealand and their support for various non-profit projects.

The brothers played a critical role in the development of the Global Impact Visa (GIV), a world first designed to attract innovation and entrepreneurial talent from around the globe, which fosters Aotearoa’s innovation-based start-up sector. Last year Stuff unravelled details of how the pair managed to lobby Government ministers, including meetings with then-Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse to set up the GIV.

Many questioned the move by Immigration New Zealand, including a rather perverse response by Immigration consult Tuariki Delamere, a former Minister of Immigration and one-time NZ First MP, who told Stuff he was "quite disgusted" with the new scheme.

However, despite some sceptics, much of the business community met the GIV with positivity. And it’s no doubt the brothers have truly harnessed New Zealand as a hub for innovation. Other notable contributions included founding the Namaste Foundation to support non-profit projects spanning a variety of environmental and social causes, and the establishment of the New Frontiers initiative as an annual gathering of global changemakers with a focus on eco-innovation, to name a few. 

Kea Global CEO Craig Donaldson says, “For nearly a decade Brian and Matthew have dedicated their lives to fostering innovation and entrepreneurial endeavours in New Zealand. The various initiatives and organisations they’ve founded have helped connect Kiwi innovators with the rest of the world, as well as attract some of the best international talents to our shores. They’re the epitome of what it means to be a Friend of New Zealand and it’s our pleasure to honour their work in this manner,”

Donaldson continues by stating that the Awards, which are now in their 15th year, recognise the outstanding Kiwis and friends of New Zealand who are helping to define our reputation on the world stage.

 “Innovation is about finding better ways to solve problems; and unfortunately, our world faces serious environmental, social, and economic challenges. Aotearoa has a very creative society and we are happy to do our bit to help connect Kiwi innovators with global networks. With luck, our nation can help lead the way, by example, through the challenges of today into a beautiful tomorrow.”

Other individuals recognised on a global scale was innovator and engineer Peter Beck, AI trailblazer Dr. Mark Sagar, award-winning actor and producer Cliff Curtis, prominent Earth scientist Dr. Delwyn Moller, technology business leader Mitchell Pham, and art world powerhouse Jennifer Flay.

Each World Class New Zealand Award winner received a Kea Tall Poppy statuette, designed by Weta Workshop co-founder and 2009 Supreme winner, Sir Richard Taylor.

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