Sir Rob commenced his time at King's as a dayboy in Marsden House and moved to St John’s in 1966. In his address he admitted to ‘rather a humble time at King's’ although House notes of his senior year recorded his success as a public speaker and a member of the cast in the year’s Shakespearean production of ‘Julius Caesar.
It was after-school years that Sir Rob was to make his mark. He dedicated much of his life to preserving the environment for current and future generations for which he received, in this year’s Queen Birthday Honours, a knighthood as Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
In the citation, Headmaster Simon Lamb outlined Sir Rob’s career as a former journalist and public relations consultant, who co-founded and is a director of Living Earth Ltd. – New Zealand’s largest municipal composting business. He has helped turn around the notion of big business being negative and irresponsible, by fostering a lifetime passion for wildlife and Antarctica.
He co-founded the Business council for Sustainable Development, and later the Pure Advantage group and has worked to bring business and environment together in the interests of waste minimisation, climate change and protecting biodiversity. In the late 1990s, as Chairman of the NZ Antarctic Heritage Trust, Sir Rob launched an international campaign to preserve the historical buildings constructed by early explorers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott on Ross Island.
He helped establish the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute, which funds sciences to gain a greater understanding of climate change.
He was made Knight of the Order of St John when he was appointed Chancellor of St John’s New Zealand operations in 2005.
In 2008, he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to conservation, and also, KCOCA’s Old Collegian of the year in that same year.
Saving the kiwi is another passion of Sir Rob. Having founded Predator Free NZ, designed to connect and support community conservation groups including iwi and local government, he is Chairman of Kiwis for Kiwi, which aims to reverse the decline in kiwi numbers.
Sir Rob was also a recipient of the Peter Blake Medal in 2015.
He notes that receiving his Honours Tie was a particularly moving occasion.
"I was profoundly moved to be honoured in our magnificent chapel fifty years since straining to be tuneful among the tenors," says Sir Rob.
"The ideas, campaigns and businesses I have tried to uphold and promote in my life are not the product of a conventional academic education. I suspect some may have been seeded while I day-dreamed in Dick Sibson’s Latin class after we had distracted him to talk about migratory birds instead of reciting verbs."
"The privilege of King's is a rounded education offering a multitude of experiences. Students who make the most of these will get the most from their time at the college, and I will be eternally grateful to have had that opportunity."