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Hewett, Peter Neil (1932–2010)

by Gavin Ellis and Penni Hewett

Peter Hewett, n.d.

Peter Hewett, n.d.

Peter Neil Hewett was born on December 5, 1932, in Gawler South Australia. He was dux at Gawler High School in 1948 and completed a science degree at the Adelaide University before studying forestry at the Australian Forestry School in Yarralumla, Canberra.

Peter started his career in forestry in Western Australia in the 1950’s as a soil surveyor, delineating the first generation of radiata plantations in the Blackwood valley, as well as spending a stint in assessing soils in the Pardelup area near Mt Barker.

In 1957, Peter was posted to Mundaring as the District Forest Officer, a position he held for over a decade. During this time he became an expert on the wandoo forest and in fire and catchment management – he also completed a degree in economics at UWA to further extend his academic standing. He was involved in the big fires of 1961 and was a strong proponent of the prescribed burning program and heavily involved in the development of aerial burning.

In his role of Chief of Division in the field of Extension Services and Recreation, he was the first senior officer in the department to embrace the new concept of visitor services and professional recreation management. He was the driving force behind the Bibbulmun Track, a 1,000km long walking track extending from Mundaring near Perth to Albany on the south coast—extending through state forests, national parks, water catchments and a host of local government authorities. He also had to manage his way through the multiple and sometimes conflicting aspects of timber production, dieback control, fire management, mining and conservation reserves in aligning and constructing the track.

It was largely as a result of his pioneering efforts in this area of forestry that established the foundations for true multiple use management of forests in WA, and his passion to embrace nature based recreation and tourism has justifiably earned him the title of “Father of Forest Recreation”.

Peter was an Assistant Conservator with the Forests Department, working alongside good friend Bruce Beggs, and was the inaugural Director of Forests with the Department of Conservation and Land Management in 1985 before a premature end to his career in 1989 due to the cruel impacts of Parkinson’s disease.

Peter is fondly remembered by many (then) young and fresh forestry graduates who were recruited by Peter to work in the Forests Department and CALM to bolster the ranks of professional foresters in WA. With a number of graduates being of “eastern states” origins, Peter was not only a senior manager to them, but for some, a fatherly figure for those far from home – indeed, Peter’s youngest daughter Penni followed in her father’s footsteps and graduated as a forester from ANU Forestry School in 1986 and subsequently took up a position with CALM under the proud and watchful eye of Peter.

He was a demanding boss, and did not suffer fools, but he was also a sound mentor to many who were lucky enough to have him as a boss over the years, always prepared to put in the time to offer training and advice.

Peter was a founding member of Greening Australia, a former chairman of the Boy Scouts Association of WA and was awarded the Centenary Medal. Peter was also a long-time member of the IFA, being at various times Secretary and Chairman of the WA Division. He was made a Fellow of the IFA and remained a committed and active member up to the time of his death on June 27, 2010.

Peter was a loyal and dedicated family man who loved a family outing, camping, marroning or fishing trip.

Peter is survived by his loving and dedicated wife Beverley, daughters Mandy, Carolyn and Penni and son Peter (“rePete”) and nine grandchildren.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 53, no 4, December 2010, p 26

Citation details

Gavin Ellis and Penni Hewett, 'Hewett, Peter Neil (1932–2010)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hewett-peter-neil-18331/text29943, accessed 22 September 2017.

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