The echoes of his battle with cat lovers still ringing in his ears, economist-turned-philanthropist Gareth Morgan has already turned his attention to another environmental cause.
This one may be less contentious than his campaign to reduce the cat population. Morgan told the Listener he’s bankrolling a competition to find New Zealand’s cleanest river.
The Morgan Foundation will issue free water-testing kits to any town that requests one. Details have yet to be announced, but the aim is for communities to compete for the prestige of having the least polluted waterway. (Presumably steps will be taken to ensure cheats don’t take a sample from a virgin spring hidden in the hills.)
Morgan has assigned his business partner Andrew Gawith, with whom he has worked since setting up the Infometrics economic consultancy in 1982, to run the competition. As of March 31, both he and Gawith will be relieved of any involvement in Gareth Morgan Investments, which will be wholly run from that date by new owner Kiwibank.
“I told Andrew there’s only so much golf he can play,” says Morgan. “So he said yes.”
He describes the competition as another strand in his campaign to encourage New Zealanders to think of the environment as an asset of potentially immense economic value. Other Morgan initiatives, besides the Cats to Go project, include ridding the sub-Antarctic Antipodes Islands of mice and the much more ambitious goal of eradicating predators from Stewart Island, an exercise previously only attempted on much smaller islands.
Oh, and he wants to promote unification of the two Koreas – never mind that it’s a goal that has eluded world statesmen since before his birth.