Ian Kinross Smith

Natural resource manager, forester and wilderness hiker

Ian Kinross Smith (1940–2001) attended Canterbury State, Camberwell Central and Camberwell High School. After leaving CHS, he took his love and wonder of nature to embark on a career in forestry, beginning at the Victorian School of Forestry, Creswick. It was while at Creswick that he met Carmel and they married in Ballarat in 1963.

Ian worked at Research Branch in Melbourne before moving to Neerim South as a field forester. In 1966 he and Carmel were transferred to the remote saw-milling town of Bendoc in Far East Gippsland, then spent five years working in the Grampians returning to Swifts Creek in East Gippsland. He then made a major career move by successfully obtaining the newly created position of District Superintendent of the National Parks Service for East Gippsland, based in Bairnsdale. From 1974 to 1984, most of the major national park areas in East Gippsland were proclaimed; Ian managed 12 national parks, covering 200,000 hectares, from the stage of proclamation through local negotiations to full development. An initial base of four staff for the park region grew to 30 rangers at six centres.

Other positions included senior planner, recreation and conservation for the Bairnsdale Region and senior development officer with the Victorian Tourism Commission. In 1990 Ian was seconded to the higher level of government with his appointment as ministerial adviser to the then Minister for Conservation and Environment and Minister for Tourism, Steve Crabb. This appointment was a solid endorsement of his expertise and abilities. Ian’s work for the Victorian Government was extensive and thorough and his contribution to the Victorian community in conservation and land management was outstanding. Through his work he followed the ideals with which he began his working life. These were connected with his love and respect for nature, the bush and wilderness. In 1993 Ian set up his own consultancy firm in natural resource management and eco-tourism, sharing his knowledge and skills with a wide range of clients.

Hiking in the wilderness was a passion for Ian and over 25 years he hiked with his friends into remote areas of New South Wales and Victoria. The Brogo Wilderness and his beloved Snowy River Country were favourite destinations. Ian had a wonderful ability to read the country and relate it to a map. At the end of a long day hiking, a glass of red around the campfire and spirited philosophical discussion were enjoyed by the group. Ian always had a great community involvement which included school councils, boy scouts, youth groups, Apex, the Friends of the Cobberas and the Bairnsdale Botanic Gardens.

Ian’s inventiveness, adventurousness, encouragement, patience, kindness and positive spirit helped people to become better people for having known him. He was mentor and supporter. Ian faced the swift unfairness of a brain tumour with characteristic bravery, determination and humour.

Ian was a wonderful husband and proud and loving father and grandather. He is survived by Carmel and their three children, Andrew, Peter and Joanne and three grandchildren. A celebration of Ian’s life was held on the banks of the Mitchell River on Saturday December 8, 2001, in the new Bairnsdale Botanic Gardens and two tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) were planted in his memory.

Joanne Smith is the daughter of Ian. This obituary was compiled from Ian’s eulogy and words spoken at the celebration of his life.

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