One of New Zealand’s most passionate political, philanthropic business entrepreneurs will receive a University of Canterbury honorary doctorate today.
Alan Gibbs is an entrepreneur, merchant banker, political activist, philanthropist, art collector, adventurer and inventor of high-speed amphibians.
He also spends three months of the year developing Gibbs Farm – a sprawling 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of land north of Auckland on the Kaipara Harbour.
Over 20 years, Gibbs has developed the space into a highly esteemed sculpture collection, with a commitment to open-brief, site-specific commissions.
Gibbs and his former wife, Dame Jenny Gibbs, also established the NEW Gallery in Auckland, and were founding donors to Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand). He is also a generous supporter of education, providing scholarships to University of Canterbury students for more than 20 years.
Gibbs is one of New Zealand’s best-known, and most colourful, entrepreneurs.
“I’m working on a number of high-speed amphibian vehicles in the United Kingdom, the United States and in Auckland. It keeps me fairly busy,’’ he says.
The Aquada was revealed to the public in 2003 and was used by English business magnate Sir Richard Branson to break the record for an amphibious crossing of the English Channel in 2004. In 2012, two new high-speed vehicles – the Humdinga and the Phibian – were unveiled in the United States, and the Quadski was commercially launched in 2012.’’
Gibbs says it will be a great honour to receive an honorary doctorate from the university where he graduated.
“I have not visited Christchurch since the earthquakes but I have relatives and friends who live there who have been badly affected. But there is a lot of passion for Christchurch as it rebuilds.
“I have great deal of affection for Christchurch. I was born in the Cashmere hills and we had a holiday house in Akaroa. I was confirmed in the ChristChurch Cathedral and my capping photo was taking outside the cathedral.
“My university days were spent in the old campus, now the Arts Centre, which has a major architectural attraction. It’s a great tragedy that it suffered so much damage.’’
Gibbs says he is looking forward to seeing the University of Canterbury’s engineering car, designed and built by students for an international university event later this year, during his tour of the campus today.
Between the late 1970s and mid-1990s, Gibbs was active in restructuring the New Zealand Forestry Corporation and Telecom. He helped establish New Zealand’s first pay television channel, Sky TV, and was a key to the development of Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.