Billionaire philanthropist Sir Richard Branson has made his mark in Auckland this afternoon, planting one of the million trees mayor Phil Goff has promised over the next three years.

Branson is here ahead of a fundraising dinner tomorrow night where he will be quizzed by former Prime Minister John Key.

The four-course dinner at Vector Arena costs from $696.65 a ticket and will focus on entrepreneurship and being a disruptive innovator.

Branson said today he wouldn't be making a formal speech, instead answering questions put to him by Key.


"Anything he asks me I'll answer."

In a fly-by visit to Shakespear Regional Park north of Auckland this afternoon Branson appeared delighted with New Zealand's fauna, saying no where else in the world had made the same commitment to eradicating pests.

The Government has committed to making New Zealand predator-free by 2050.

Entrepreneurs needed to play their part in helping governments and social groups come up with solutions to the world's problems, Branson said.

"We at Virgin play quite a big role in protecting species and it's great to see it happening here," a slightly puffed Branson told the Herald as he walked through the regional park.

"The latest move to aim at getting rid of species by 2050 is tremendous, I think you're the only country in the world that's made that pledge.

"The difference it will make to forest and other species is dramatic."

After arriving on a helicopter from Waiheke Island with Goff, Branson had time to briefly admire our bird life and plant a tree before flying off again less than an hour later.


Branson said Goff's plan to plant a million more mainly native trees around Auckland over the next three years was a "wonderful initiative".

He and Goff planted a native mahoe tree and a pigeon wood, with Branson joking he wanted a camera set up so he could watch the tree grow back home in England.

Branson, who was last on our shores in 2011 for an Outward Bound fundraising gala, said he was pleased to be back and credited Kiwis for having an open friendliness.

"I think it's lovely to be in a country where the biggest problems that you seem to be facing is how to get rid of rats."

Branson, who founded the Virgin Group, is one of the world's most well-known entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

He began selling mail-order records in the 1970s, a business which eventually became Virgin Records before branching out to include air travel, a mobile phone network and finance.

He has shown recent interest in space travel, announcing the launch of Virgin Orbit in early March, which has been developing an air-launch system for small satellites called LauncherOne.

The LauncherOne rockets will be released from a Boeing 747 jet named Cosmic Girl.

The billionaire has been named among the BBC's 100 greatest Britons and counts working with Nelson Mandela and former UN Secretary Kofi Annan among his humanitarian achievements.

Branson counts the Obamas among his famous friends, hosting them in the British Virgin Islands following the end of Barack Obama's presidency in February where they were joined by Weekend Herald columnist Michelle "Nanogirl" Dickinson.