Early last month the country lost one of its foremost conservationists. Here is environmentalist and journalist Tony Orman’s eulogy, given at Bill’s funeral.
Respect and honour
By Tony Orman
We are here to pay homage to Bill Benfield. The dictionary defines homage as ‘an expression of respect and honour.” Bill Benfield deserves the utmost respect and honour.
He was the author of three outstanding books “The Third Wave – Poisoning the Land”, “At War with Nature – Corporate Conservation and the Industry of Extinction” and “Water – Quality and Ownership” all which were glowingly reviewed.
But those books don’t tell the story of the man himself. His tireless endeavours in the conservation field earned the utmost respect and his efforts and results earned him much honour.
Respect for a man who talked sense on conservation
But what is conservation? Unfortunately in New Zealand it has been perverted by irrational extreme ideologies of hatred to anything introduced. Ironic because are not all humans introduced by way of migration?
Bill defied these bizarre hypocritical, irrational ideologies with realism and rational thought.
When the sad news of Bill’s death permeated out on the e mail network, there flowed tributes which were totally spontaneous.
People just so respected Bill’s efforts and him as a person.
Tributes from around the nation
A few e mails to quote.
Andi Cockroft, co-chairman of Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations.of NZ who unfortunately was unable to attend today said. “So sad and such a shock to hear this morning of Bill’s passing. “As my opposite number as Co-Chair of CORANZ he leaves a huge void to be filled.
One of life’s gentlemen gone forever, and with him a huge depth of knowledge. His perception, charm and wit will be sorely missed. His like may never pass our way again.”
Steve Veaill, former NZ Deerstalkers Assn national president who is currently in Australia said: “Bill will be missed and remembered as an honourable man.”
Eastern Fish and Game councillor Sandy Bull of Gisborne said “Bill was a true warrior for conservation.”
And there were many more.
Environmentalist Carol Sawyer of Wanaka said Bill’s passing was a great loss.
“He had a great sense of humour, and certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly particularly bureaucrats,” she said.
Former UK game manager Doug Carter of Nelson said “Bill had a special place in the anti-1080 battles which is making progress. When the battle is won, his name will be written large as a prime mover against the ecocide that is happening in New Zealand today.”
Fearless in challenging dishonesty and hypocrisy
Bill attributes showed through in his endeavours.
Fearlessly he challenged bureaucracies who indulged in spin that could reach liar proportions, and the deceit and deception to justify their ill-conceived policies around the horror fairy tale of invasive pest and predators and consequent destructive use of poisons.
He made Official Information Act requests to seek the truths and laid complaints with the Ombudsman about the chicanery and trickery of bureaucrats and the Press Council seeking to expose bureaucrats dishonesty and their deliberately misleading ‘spin’.
Bill went about it methodically and with no fuss. He was tenacious and determined. He sought no personal glory – he just fought for principles of honesty and integrity by attacking falsehoods and fallacies.
Ardent, honest and humble
Bill wasn’t seeking praise or plaudits for his efforts for at heart, he was a modest man. A true ardent conservationist he just seethed at the lies, the injustices and the lack of honesty and integrity by people paid from the public purse.
He was appalled at the deep environmental and ecological damage being wrought by public servants with their imagined pests and poison policies to annihilate the animals. The ecological destruction was usually on public lands and engineered by public servants.
Bill stood up and was counted in no uncertain fashion. In addition his arguments and advocacy were always logical, well reasoned and meticulously researched. That shows in his outstanding three books.
He had a great sense of humour, and certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly. One of his favourite expressions was ” headless chickens” to describe when people were reacting in knee jerk fashion and verging towards panic and misjudgement. It was Bill who so often steadied the ship.
Kipling’s words are appropriate
I’m reminded of the first verse of Rudyard Kipling’s “If”.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
I will miss him personally. Every other day we chin-wagged on the phone. There was something quite special about Bill. He never stopped fighting.
His death is a great loss to the rational conservation movement.
Rest in Peace Bill – you leave an outstanding legacy and your work will live on.