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Peter Moncrief South (1933–2000)

by Tony Cole

Peter’s [Peter Moncrief South] death in June last year was a premature end to the life of one of the more prominent graduates of Australia’s forestry education institutions. After completing his studies at the Australian Forestry School in 1955, he was awarded his Diploma of Forestry and a B.Sc. from his home University, Adelaide. He began work in Tasmania, spending two years on forest assessment there before returning to S.A., where he was attached to a firm of management consultants, then engaged on comprehensive sawmilling work studies for the Woods & Forests Department. In 1961 he accepted a position with Heron’s Creek Timber Mills Pty. Ltd., in N.S.W., managing their logging and sawmilling operations for 10 years. He again returned to S.A., as General Manager, Commercial Division in the Woods St Forests Department, until 1976, when he was appointed Director of that organisation, a post he held until retiring in 1989. Although Peter was sympathetic and supportive with regard to environmental and conservation issues in forest management, his energy was mainly directed toward effective commercial forest based activity. He saw Australian timber products treated badly by the established merchants at the time and made it a personal challenge to correct this perceived injustice. Because, by then, his responsibilities were tied to South Australia, his emphasis was directed towards radiata pine, which, in the 1970s, at least, was still frequently regarded as “ that timber supplied to second class customers, or, when nothing else was available.” He attacked the problem on two fronts; clearly there were some product quality standards that allowed justifiable customer criticism and that could be addressed within the Woods & Forests sawmills to begin with. Secondly there was a need to lobby, persuade, or coerce other radiata producers to guarantee improved product standards, and merchants to revise their level of acceptance. Peter threw his influence and considerable energy into the task, and, to this end, became President, Radiata Pine Association of Australia, Chairman, Timber Standards Board, Member, CSIRO State Committee, Member, Forestry and Forest Products Industry Council, Vice President, National Association of Forest Industries, and Member, Standards Association of Australia, S.A. Branch. Radiata pine’s position in the market did start to improve, slowly at first then quite dramatically. I recall some rather bitter complaints from a few whose degree of comfort was disturbed by the changes, and even from producers of native hardwoods displaced from traditional markets. Peter continued regardless of opposition, displaying his characteristic objective (some would suggest obstinate) determination. He enjoyed being part of a team, both on and off the job. His natural tendency to define his targets quickly allowed him to revel in being a leader in most of these activities. He was a better than average worker, tennis player, manager, and enjoyer of life, because of which he has left behind many friends and associates who really had a lot of fun in his company. Peter is survived by his wife, Norma, who fortunately has the support of their children, Lisa, Anya, Luke, Ben, and Mark.

Original publication

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Citation details

Tony Cole, 'South, Peter Moncrief (1933–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

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