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Rob Fenwick: enterprising conservationist

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/06/2016

You could describe Rob Fenwick as a conservationist. You could also call him a businessman. But that you can effortlessly say he's both is what makes the man now known as Sir Rob proud.

"I think there are campaigns that I have done in conservation that are very satisfying. And in the business likewise. But to me, bringing them both together has been very fulfilling," the entrepreneur, who has been awarded a knighthood in this year's Queen's Birthday honours, tells NZ Newswire.

Sir Rob's new title recognises a career that's proved industry and the environment can be compatible, and one that's also seen him called one of the country's busiest people.

He describes his achievements in business as "modest", a humble claim coming from a man who co-founded New Zealand's first and largest organic waste processing company, Living Earth, sits on advisory boards for Air New Zealand and Westpac, and worked with Ngati Whatua to establish the hugely successful radio station Mai FM.

But there's no doubt his life-time of environmental work is impressive.

Sir Rob's current major project is leading Predator Free New Zealand - an organisation dedicated to protecting native birds by eliminating the animals that hunt them.

But he also helped develop New Zealand's waste strategy, was the first chair of the government's Waste Advisory Board, co-founder of the Business Council for Sustainable Development, as well as advising the Department of Conservation.

So how does he keep doing it at 65, and following a battle with cancer?

"You've got to fall in love with ideas... being positive and sometimes so optimistic you're pushing the boundaries," he says.

"But it does change the way you think about you life, to have a scare like that, and I have reduced my workload. Although my wife would say not enough."

Receiving a knighthood may even just open the doors to more projects, Sir Rob says.

"I'm expecting the phone to ring a bit more, than a bit less."

And despite his family donating a forest block on Waiheke Island to the public, he insists he shouldn't be called a philanthropist.

"You need a lot of money to be a philanthropist," he laughs.

"But where I've seen opportunities to give things away, or to support causes, I have."

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