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Hall, Michael John (Mike) (1929–2012)

by Bob Newman

Michael Hall, n.d.

Michael Hall, n.d.

I believe it is very important to reflect on the achievements of those who really have made a mark in their personal and professional life, and that of this nation. They deserve homage.

Two quotations by famous men are particularly apt for Mike [Michael John Hall] and I start this panegyric with these sentiments:

My life is over, but it is not yet ended. Sir W. S. Churchill.

He lived well. He had the respect of intelligent men and women and the love of family. He filled his niche and accomplished his task and leaves this world better than he found it. He looked for the best in others, and gave the best he had. Ralph Emerson

Mike Hall’s influence is not yet ended, for the trees which have been nurtured, replicated and multiplied by his efforts are still growing. Nor will the memories of him fade as a young forestry trainee, then as a respected forestry leader and long-time friend of many.

By chance he was born in Britain near the New Forest, two months later and 20 kilometres away from me. I first met him at Melbourne University in the 1950’s. Mike Hall’s personality will remain with us as a constant reminder of the virtue of good and lasting life values. I saw those values in full measure when he emerged as President of the Australian Forest Development Institute (AFDI) in 1982, the third and then to be the second longest holder of that position right up to this day

This position of responsibility came to him after 13 years as the primary driver, with the blessing of his employer APM Forests, of organising representation for private forestry culminating in the recognition nationally of the importance of the private forestry sector.

I joined him as a founding Branch Honorary Secretary for Tasmania in 1977 after the first conference of the AFDI. When he became President in 1982, I worked with him as Honorary National Secretary for nearly ten years and after then in other ways, such as analysing the evidence as to whether carbon dioxide is the villain in climate change.

So in all kinds of weather I have got to know him very well, and here today I can personally attest that what Sir Winston Churchill said and Ralph Emerson wrote, is true about Mike.

I would be remiss not to remind people of Mike’s outstanding ability as a technical expert on forestry matters and in the expansion of APM’s Forests plantations. He was also an advocate for corporate and private forestry and for forestry as a whole when the profession found itself defending its scientific knowledge and role in the community.

To support private forestry development in the mid-1980s, Mike resisted the proposal by the Federal government to effectively prevent urban high income earners from investing in private forestry. This was to be achieved by disallowing a tax break against personal income, after expenses committed for private plantation development was deducted from their personal income. After much discussion by the AFDI Board it was decided to approach the Federal Government directly to explain that this move would stop investor interest. Mike organised a report, with industry and private growers funding printing and distribution costs that showed the effect of cessation of private investment. He then invited me to find a base in a Federal Parliament office and lobby members of both Houses of Parliament using the report.

This was achieved at the invitation of The Hon. Warwick Smith, the member for Bass in Tasmania, and over a period of ten days I spoke to enough Parliamentarians to stop the legislation on this matter. In my office there is a photo reminder of John Kerin, the Federal Minister responsible for Forestry, with Mike, Ross Flanery and myself confirming that there would be no new negative legislation.

That effort allowed continuation of investment resulting in the further establishment of more than 750,000 hectares of plantations during the next 20 or so years, a near doubling of the plantation estate in Australia.

I could give other illustrations of his leadership but that event shows Mike’s ability to influence sound forestry outcomes and provide strategic thinking of a high order.

I hope I have described Mike’s working life well enough for people to understand how much he meant to forestry and to our Nation, for Michael Hall was the quintessential forester. On behalf of all foresters, their colleagues and friends I extend their heart felt sympathy to Joan, Frances, David, David’s wife Julie and their children, Lindsay, Alistair and Andrew.

We salute the memory of Mike, the quiet achiever. May he rest in peace.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 56, no 1, March 2013, pp 26-27

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Bob Newman, 'Hall, Michael John (Mike) (1929–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hall-michael-john-mike-19568/text30911, accessed 20 September 2017.

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