Millionaire bankrolls domestic violence film

Garry Robertson on his farm in Karaka. Photo: NZME
Garry Robertson on his farm in Karaka. Photo: NZME
A New Zealand multimillionaire who admits knowing nothing about films can now call himself an "executive producer'' after bankrolling a new documentary on the late social justice reformer Celia Lashlie.

Garry Robertson grew up in Mosgiel witnessing "plenty of violence'' and determined to prove to his father he was not stupid.

Starting out as an apprentice electrician at Dunedin Railways, Mr Robertson worked his way up to become one of New Zealand's biggest land aggregators and most influential millionaires.

But he's also a passionate philanthropist who wants nothing more than ordinary, hard-working Kiwis making good in life.

After hearing former TV current affairs journalist Amanda Millar was seeking donations to help fund a film of Ms Lashlie's life, Mr Robertson thought he could help.

Ms Lashlie, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2015, had affected his life and the way he and his ex-wife brought up their four sons.

They had attended the former women's prison manager's public talks and read her classic book, He'll Be OK: Growing gorgeous boys into good men.

"It was well-researched, full of common sense and very logical,'' Mr Robertson said.

"It particularly helped me understand how boys think and also helped me understand my own thinking.

"I figured she's a really good iconic woman and if I can help here, I will.''

Mr Robertson gave $1000 to the campaign and got talking to Ms Millar. It was clear there were funding issues, especially because of the"raw subject'' of domestic violence.

"Yet it's costing the country billions of dollars a year,'' said Mr Robertson, who said he saw plenty of violence in his neighbourhood while growing up and knew it was prevalent in many New Zealand homes.

He told Ms Millar he would finance the lot.

The newly titled "executive producer'' is adamant that Celia, which premieres at the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) in Wellington tomorrow, will make a difference.

"I'm confident it will hit a chord for many New Zealanders and get us all on the road to change attitudes.'' 

Celia will screen as part of the NZIFF in Dunedin on August 20 at 6pm and August 21 at 11.15am at the Regent Theatre.

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