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Well done John Edgar

Written By: - Date published: 9:41 am, April 10th, 2021 - 11 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, Conservation, Deep stuff, Environment, supercity - Tags:

I’d thought I’d take a moment to celebrate the life of John Edgar, who passed away a few days ago. 

Some will remember John primarily as an artist. He developed painstakingly accurate cutting techniques for fitting parallel pieces of stone and glass into tight geometric forms. 

His typical line-description was “the stones are the bones of the land”, and would work these dense and heavy rocks into states approaching massed frozen liquid. 

His artistic biography is summarised in this BrickBay link

His intense reverence for the land and particularly our land is pretty clear from one characteristic summary of his:

These slices of the land are revelations of how intimately the environment meshes. How seamless are the interrelationships of earth and sky, land and sea, heaven and earth, black and white? The convergence of the two into one.” 

He was awarded an Officer of the Order of Merit for New Zealand for his services to art. His art and his activism emerged from a single integrated energy.

John was a powerful environmentalist for the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland’s west. And it’s his activism that makes him particularly relevant to us here. 

Back in the mid-1970s, many of west Auckland’s progressive leaders who are now in their 70s and 80s began their activist paths with a protest to put a landfill into the Bethell’s Beach lagoon. It was the first big environmental fight since Manapouri that the media had been really effectviely harnessed to push back hard on a stupid local council. You can check out the blow-by-blow shenanigans and fun that led them to winning here.

They evolved over time and intervened when chunks of forest that were contiguous with the main forest were threatened with being carved off and killed for residential development. They were convinced that this particular forest – not huge by any standards – had something precious to it. They won many battles. A major one was their support behind the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Act. This Act was a hard-fought piece of work and involved many who had started as activists now being elected onto the post-1989 Waitakere City Council. This local bill was passed with full opposition from National and with the support of one independent Member of Parliament, Taito Philip Field. It wasn’t the strongest piece of protective legislation, but while the rest of Auckland has spread out over the land from the Bombay Hills to Whangaparaoa, the forested west has remained the forested west. 

Seeking and gaining the approval of WRPS and of John in particular was high on the list of any aspiring political candidate whether local, regional or central. It was a lot of votes, with a lot of activist passion behind them.

John was Chair of WRPS for 22 years and led many successful fights to protect that forest. 

There are now over forty activist groups throughout the Waitakeres protecting one thing and another, but WRPS were the major one since the 1970s and have been a model for them all since. John was a lot of fun, a real creative original, a fierce and uncompromising spirit, and an icon of Auckland’s west. 

The statement from the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society reads: 

John dedicated his life to protecting the environment and especially his beloved Waitakere Ranges with its significant heritage and ecological values.

John had unconditional commitment to and responsibility for both Waitakere Ranges Protection Society and to the protection of the Waitakere Ranges and made a long and effective contribution. The legacy of collaboration, determination and inspiration to achieve permanent protection of the Waitakere Ranges left by John Edgar is something for which future generations of New Zealanders will always be grateful. John Edgar gave the Waitakere Ranges a voice.  He will be deeply missed.”

It’s not unreasonable to call this man a fully realised being: he gave his life-energy to expressing his love for this land and his support for all those who would work to sustain this land. I would wish that state as a model to aspire to. 

Fortunately we will be able to see his art works for millennia to come as they, like his activism, will last for generations to come. Make sure you touch them and let them tell you their story, because they are all from John.

11 comments on “Well done John Edgar ”

  1. KSaysHi 1

    Wow, those artworks are amazing!

  2. Anne 2

    Thank-you for that Ad. I didn't know John Edgar, but someone who grew up and spent her early adult years under the shadow of the Waitakeres (albeit from the western slopes of Mount Albert) and who spent many an hour as a child weaving dreams about them, I am grateful to him and his supporters for keeping them safe from developers and speculators.

    We are so lucky to have such a wild, beautiful mountain range and coastline right on our back door-step.

  3. mickysavage 3

    Thanks Ad you capture John’s background and skills very well. Out west if you were to single out one person who has contributed more to conservation than any other it would be John.

  4. greywarshark 4

    This life story of serious action is an example of what all good-hearted NZ people need to do now; be present and engaged and not take our land, the people here, their affability and friendship and comradeship, their skills and integrated involvement in society plus ours, our environment and the way it feeds our bodies and souls – these things, not to be taken for granted.

    It's not enough to regard yourself as a good person just because you have gone to work, not been in trouble with the law, got a place to live, made a life for yourself and family, done a few helpful things for friends. All that has taken place in a society and environment that is largely the creation of others' hands, either in making or conserving it.

  5. Incognito 5

    Why is that wreckers always want to wreck special places? It is almost as if they cannot stand the beauty and must therefore destroy it and wipe it from memory. There’s something deeply disturbing about this, psychologically speaking, as it affects how we treat our country, our environment, and each other.

    • Anne 5.1

      Money and greed Incognito. The view from the Waitakeres ranges is awe-inspiring. You can look across the city of Auckland and beyond to the islands of the Gulf on a clear day. Had the speculators got their hands on it, they would have made millions of dollars each.

  6. mosa 6

    Being a westie that grew up with the hills as a landmark i always knew where home was.

    I was fortunate to have friends on Piha rd and i lived for a couple of years in Quins rd which had a beautiful view over most of Auckland on a fine day.

    Living in Christchurch i have the port hills but it is a different view entirely to the " Waitaks "

    The " Waitaks "are worth fighting for to ensure this magnificent area is protected and enjoyed. I did not know John but his commitment to the land is undisputed. The forests of the Waitakeres have lost an important guardian. I hope someone of Johns statue will step forward.

    Go well Mr Edgar your spirit will always rest in this beautiful place

  7. Ad 7

    The funeral is packed and overflowing.

    Its good.

  8. Never knew John Edgar but he clearly lived a useful life of purpose.

    The Waitakeres will be a kind of memorial to him and the others who worked to keep them. We gotta hold on to what we've got.

    Commentator Anne is mostly right – it is money and greed. Backed by the constant cry for "development".

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