Chris Parkin—BSc 1972, BCA 1974, MSc(Hons) 1976

Chris Parkin is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, collector, patron of the arts, former hotelier, and three term Wellington city councillor.

Portrait of distinguished alumnus Chris Parkin wearing a blue shirt under a patterned dark jacket.
Chris Parkin is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, collector, patron of the arts, former hotelier, and three-term Wellington city councillor.

Chris graduated from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington with bachelor’s degrees in science and commerce and administration in 1974 and a Master of Science in Geochemistry in 1976. After a brief stint in manufacturing, he joined the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), a state-owned enterprise that operated venture-capital funds. He opened DFC’s San Francisco office, which focused on increasing high-technology investment into New Zealand.

He returned to Wellington in 1983, where his journey as an art collector and tireless supporter and benefactor of the arts started to take shape.

Wellington has benefited from his generosity, and he has played a significant role in the development of Wellington as the cultural capital of New Zealand. He is probably best known for moving a hotel, an engineering feat in which Chris saved what was then the Michael Fowler Hotel from demolition to make way for Te Papa Tongarewa in 1993 by moving it across the road on railway tracks. It was the largest building in New Zealand to be relocated at that time. This audacious rescue mission led Chris to be named Wellingtonian of the Year in 1993.

The hotel, later named the Museum Hotel and which Chris sold in 2015, still houses his extensive private collection of contemporary New Zealand art—more than 150 pieces collected by him over more than 20 years.

He is an extremely generous patron and the driving force behind many projects that benefit the wider community. He has consistently served the arts community through sponsorship of multiple visual arts, film, theatre, music, and dance organisations.

He has also given his time and significant financial support to many causes and projects including the Arts Foundation, Bats Theatre productions, the Eureka Foundation, the Fringe Festival, the National Portrait Gallery, New Zealand International Festival, the New Zealand School of Drama, Otaki College, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Shakespeare Globe, Te Papa Foundation, the Wellington Sculpture Trust, the Wellington Opera, and charities such as Child Cancer Foundation, Clown Doctors, IHC, the Life Flight Trust, the Malaghan Institute, MeDArT, Ronald McDonald House, and the Surgical Research Trust.

In 2013, he founded New Zealand’s premier award for drawing, the Parkin Drawing Prize, now in its ninth year.

Chris has held many governance positions including on the boards of the Affordable Arts Trust, the Hannah Playhouse Trust, Te Whaea—the National School of Dance and Drama, Te Papa Tongarewa, Tourism New Zealand, the St James Theatre, and Venues Wellington.

In the 2011 Queen’s Birthday honours list, he was awarded a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the arts and business.

Chris’s leadership and philanthropy were recognised in 2021 when he was awarded the 2020 Philanthropy Showcase award at the 2020 Wellingtonian of the Year Awards recognising his ongoing support for several arts-based organisations and causes, from public sculpture to local theatre.