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Tribute to Trustee and Treasurer Colin Ryder

Kua hinga te tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne.

A tōtara has fallen in the forest of Tāne. Remembering Colin Ryder, our Treasurer, who passed away unexpectedly after a tragic accident on the 9th of March 2021.

Colin did not come to our conference; he was a very busy man and had family commitments. Somehow though, he also found time to attend to one of those things on his to do list and it ended up costing his life.

Colin was our leader and our guide; the loss to us and Papatūānuku is immense.

Wednesday morning, we were two hours into our Annual Conference at Whanganui when we heard the news. It was like a horse stomped on my chest. I did not know what to say or do. I had to break the news to the conference and then we took five minutes to digest this abrupt, tragic thing. The main purpose of our conference is for coastal managers and communities to share stories and support each other’s restoration efforts so we continued to do that. This is exactly what Colin would be telling us, as he was oft to say: Just get on with it.

Throughout the Conference, many attendees gave their aroha for the loss and during our Conference Dinner I recited: Kua hinga te tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne. A tōtara has fallen in the forest of Tāne and requested everyone plant a tōtara to remember Colin. A few of us raised a few glasses of the craft beer that was another of his passions. It was uncanny but also fortunate that many of us were together and were able to share our grief and celebrate Colin’s life.

In another uncanny coincidence, we were pleased to announce that The Friends of Baring Head were this year’s recipient of our Coastal Restoration Award. Colin already knew the winner had been decided but, true to his nature, took the secret to his grave.

My last phone conversation with Colin was when he was on the Head checking his trap lines and complaining about his knees. He was breathing heavily but I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was happy and energised.

Of all the countless projects and achievements, the purchase of Baring Head was Colin’s proudest moment and an outstanding landscape has been secured and protected from development and free for generations of New Zealanders to enjoy. I was fortunate to visit Baring Head with Colin during our Conference in Petone in 2018 and watched him check those traps. Yet another uncanny coincidence is; as I write this, I am travelling home, sailing through the Wellington Heads on the Interislander Ferry looking out at Colin’s legacy.

Colin became treasurer of our Trust in 2014 It is certain that we wanted Colin to be our Treasurer but we did not choose Colin. In our first conversation I felt like I was the one being interviewed. He was direct and blunt. He said he had done his homework on us and only now I realise how fortunate we were when he did choose us.

Colin was one of these rare individuals who live their life authentically. He was a straight talker and always ready to laugh out loud. Those who know Colin also know they have been touched by someone special.

The Coastal Restoration whānau from around New Zealand extend their aroha to Colin’s family for their tragic loss of a loving husband and father.

Tai timu, tai pari
Tai mata tāhuna
Piri tata, piri tahi
Piri kia ora
Mō āpōpō, mō ake, ake tonu rā

Greg Bennett

Tiamana

An article about Colin that was published in the Dominion Post on 3 April is here.