The people of New Zealand are losing not only the quality of their once pristine rivers, but also the ownership of the water to hungry predators. Bill Benfield
Bill Benfield passes on
By Roger Childs
Bill probably knew more about the problems facing the New Zealand environment than anyone else in the country. He wrote a number of books and articles on such issues ranging from 1080 poison to water quality.
Unfortunately, it has only been in the last few years that mainstream media has taken much notice, and many of his thoroughly researched pieces earlier featured in the online outlets – The Tasmanian Times and Kapiti Independent News.
As well being an expert on environmental and conservation matters, Bill was also an architect, vintner, tramper and fisherman.
He passed away peacefully in the Wairarapa last Wednesday.
Architect and winegrower
As an architect he was responsible for projects in London, the Northern Territory and the Wellington area.
In Australia he also assisted indigenous peoples with land use issues and putting a case to the Woodward Aboriginal Land Rights Commission.
In later years, with wife Sue Delamare, he established a small vineyard and winery near Martinborough, based around traditional French methods of growing grapes.
A key element was low growing vines that did not use irrigation. The wines did very well and for their efforts the couple received a Ballance Farm Environment Award for sustainability, in 2005.
A fearless advocate
A huge concern of Bill’s was the ruinous and destructive influence of 1080 poison on the New Zealand environment.
In his landmark book The Third Wave Poisoning the Land he identified the scientifically unsound opinions of Leonard Cockayne, as leading to the obsession with poisoning so-called pests so that the New Zealand ecosystem of hundreds of years ago could be restored.
Bill pointed out that the destruction of our environment began with the descendants of Polynesian immigrants eliminating browsing birds and burning down forests. The second wave came with the settlers from Europe, who continued to clear the land and introduce a variety of domestic animals and wildlife.
Two other books – At War with Nature and Water Quality and Ownership – addressed the disastrous impact of human activity in more recent times on everything from oceans to bird life.
Bill did not flinch from taking on the establishment and their politically correct attitudes and policies. Sadly mainstream media often ignored the fundamental truths he was espousing.
KIN had been indebted to Bill for his permission to reproduce Tasmanian Times articles and for the exclusives he wrote for us.
His wide knowledge, intellectual honesty, fearless integrity and warm friendship will be greatly missed.