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Vear, Kenneth William (Ken) (1927–2007)

by Lew Parsons

It is with regret that the IFA acknowledges the passing of Ken [Kenneth William] Vear, just short of his 80th birthday.

Ken grew up and was educated in Victoria. He attended the University of Melbourne and became one of the early Victorian students to attend the Australian Forestry School to complete his Forestry degree. He accepted a position with the then Woods and Forests Department in South Australia in 1949 and retired in 1981 after a career during which he made significant contributions to the management of plantations and to the IFA, for which he was recognised as a Fellow of the Institute.

Those of us who had the privilege of working with Ken remember him as a dedicated forester with an enquiring mind and ability to analyse technical problems and develop practical solutions. His quiet and relaxed demeanour masked a strong desire to bring out the best in his staff.

Among Ken’s achievements were investigations into nutritional problems with P. radiata at Kuitpo Forest in the Adelaide Hills during the 1950’s.

This was a landmark review which set the policy for regular treatment of failing sites at Kuitpo and Second Valley. Ken also assessed the site characteristics associated with large and small responses, and produced a 3-way site classification. He surveyed Kuitpo F.R. and mapped the probable occurrence of three site classes. It was a very useful mapping effort and has stood the test of time. Considering the survey was only 10-12 years after ‘rescue’ applications of superphosphate were made, he did a great job, showing his sound knowledge of plantations and logical thinking. As a professional forester in operations management he was rated by his peers as among the best we had and probably the most sensitive to the remarkable characteristics of radiata pine, well aware it was well-within its climate ‘comfort zone’, but needing a bit of nutritional assistance.

Ken moved to the South East in the late 1960’s as District Forester at Mt Gambier. At that time the Woods and Forests Department was refining the fire management and suppression systems that were to serve it well for the next 40 years. The Department was the pioneer in using canvas hose for plantation fires. The dilemma of how to effectively roll out lengths of hose was solved by Ken who invented and then constructed the first prototype of the figure eight hose roller that allowed hose to be run out by pulling both ends from a central point as well as the clamp to close off the end of the hose and allow other lengths to be attached.

He moved back to Adelaide in 1971 and became the Regional Forester responsible for all forest management activities in the Adelaide Hills and mid North.

He arrived at a time when public interest in forests for recreational activity was starting to increase rapidly. It was a phenomenon for which the Department was ill prepared and Ken was instrumental in developing strategies for the coexistence of commercial plantations with the public desire to use them for different activities; or as it was called then, “Multiple Use Forestry”.

One of his final contributions to the Department was the planning and establishment of urban woodlands to be an integral part of Government’s satellite city of Monarto which never eventuated.

This project led to ground breaking work on revegetation in the low rainfall areas of the State with many of the processes now widely adopted including mechanical direct seeding and managing dry and drought years. The Monarto project also included the establishment of a new amenity nursery with Ken being responsible for the development of soil sterilisation processes and equipment and materials handling innovations.

As his past colleagues and members of the IFA we mourn his passing and honour his memory through the notable contributions that he made to the forestry profession during his career. We extend our condolences to his family.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 50, no 3, September 2007, p 22

Citation details

Lew Parsons, 'Vear, Kenneth William (Ken) (1927–2007)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/vear-kenneth-william-ken-19012/text30616, accessed 25 September 2017.

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