Man of the trees mourned

Man of the trees mourned

A KALAMUNDA icon in conservation has died after making a lifetime contribution to the environment.

Lesmurdie resident Barrie Oldfield died on December 11.

He was 82.

He was awarded the highest civic award in the Shire of Kalamunda as an Honorary Freeman of the municipality in 1998 for his contribution to the environment and an Order of Australia Medal in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 1999.

He was also awarded a centenary medal in 2001 from the Federal Government.

He moved to the Perth Hills in 1964 and lived in Lesmurdie.

Mr Oldfield was the founding member of Men of the Trees in 1979 and he was responsible for the planting of more than 3.5 million trees in his lifetime.

This conservation work was based on the attempts to eradicate wind erosion and salinity in the Wheatbelt and the rest of Western Australia.

Mr Oldfield was an avid filmmaker and teamed up with his long-time friend, cinematographer Peter Goodall, in Kalamunda and they travelled all over Australia to make films about the environment. They even shot a film on Nauru about superphosphate for the United Nations in New York.

“We were friends for 50 years,” Mr Goodall said.

“He was a very intelligent person and could put his hand to anything and bring that intellect to the job, no matter what it was.

“Barrie didn’t do anything without a purpose.”

Mr Oldfield was often interviewed by ABC broadcaster Robin Williams on the science show on Radio National as he spoke about his conservation projects and research into salinity and other issues.

“Unfortunately he suffered from Crohn’s disease most of his life, so he had periods of being very unwell from a very young age,” Mr Goodall said.

“But he never let that stop him and he was working on projects right up until the last few weeks of his life.”

State Opposition environment spokesman Chris Tallentire said Mr Oldfield spent 35 years of his full life contributing whatever he had to the environment.

“He saw the need for large scale revegetation of areas like WA’s Wheatbelt region and he was visionary in his approach to repairing the state’s damaged landscape,” Mr Tallentire said.

“He saw the potential for the broader community to be involved in solving the problem and set about developing systems, from nurseries to planting teams, to enable large scale tree planting.

“Barrie was president of Men of the Trees for 17 years until 2004 and will always be remembered as the founder of the society’s WA Branch.

“Our condolences are with his wife Sallie and his sons William and Martin.”

Mr Goodall said that through a number of Mr Oldfield’s life experiences, including the influence of liberal thought and intellect at Oxford and a sickness which had broadly restricted yet also directed his life, he was able to make a huge impact on public life and the life of the environment in WA.

His funeral was at St Barnabas Church in Kalamunda last Thursday.

Mr Oldfield’s films include On the Edge of the Forest, What am I bid for this tree? and Wheat Today, What Tomorrow?