Monday, December 13, 2021

John McLean: Doctor HUGH BARR - R.I.P.

Dr Hugh Barr
For most of his life Hugh Barr was a keen tramper and an administrator of tramping and outdoor organisations. This love of the outdoors began early in life when, as a youngster living at Henderson on the then outskirts of Auckland, he and his sister would be taken by their parents each year on a long summer holiday, driving to places such as the Bay of Plenty and East Coast, camping here and there as the fancy took. Thus from keen observation did Hugh learn all about New Zealand's fauna and flora and develop a love for the countryside - especially mountains and beaches.

After leaving Henderson High School Hugh did a degree in mathematics at Auckland University and then did his doctorate at Toronto University - excellent training for his later career in the D.S.I.R. Like Latin, mathematics makes for a clear mind as there can be only one answer as opposed to the wishy-washiness of the social sciences. With Hugh that was certainly the case as he developed a mind that was beautifully clear as well as wide-ranging.

I was with him on the evening that the Key National government published its thieving and racist Marine and Coastal Areas Bill. We went through it together section by section and I was impressed by the immense and broad grasp that he had of all its deliberately complicated provisions and their ramifications. 

So outraged was he at the theft of New Zealand's beaches and coast from public ownership that he co-founded with Muriel Newman the Coastal Coalition and settled down to write a book, The Gathering Storm over the Foreshore and Seabed, which preceded but presaged the actual Bill. It was published by Tross Publishing in 2010.

In one sense this was a necessity as the media refused to go in to bat for the continued Crown (i.e. public) ownership of this priceless resource. When the book was launched I gave a review copy to an old schoolfriend of mine who was a reporter on Wellington's Dompost. So impressed was he at the importance of the issue that he spent a whole week-end interviewing Hugh and writing up a lengthy piece to go in Monday's paper which, he told me, was always looking for something like this to report since journalists took the week-end off. Then kaput! Banned from "higher-up". Not even a sentence of this worthy week-end effort was allowed to see the light of day in the Dompost. After all, the elites must not allow the public to realise the full ramifications of what's going on.

As a joint author Hugh made major contributions to two other books, "Twisting the Treaty" and "One Treaty, One Nation", in which he developed the themes of the danger of allowing natural resources to pass out of Crown ownership and into the hands of the newly created tribal elite.

Hugh believed that the only major party to oppose this race-based grab of the foreshore and seabed was New Zealand First and so he joined it as a member. It wasn't long before he was a NZ First candidate and the scientific advisor to Winston Peters. He never made it into Parliament, which was probably a blessing as, with his strongly held principles and robust patriotism, he would have found himself very lonely in that chamber of talking heads.

Mild-mannered and genial, Hugh nevertheless had a lot of steel in him and on matters of principle he was both rigid and courageous. He was a true New Zealander in the very best sense of the word and will be sorely missed although over the last two years he was "missing in action" due to his steadily worsening illness. His words live on in the books he wrote and show the prescience of the warnings that he gave. New Zealand is the poorer for not having listened to him.


Anonymous said...

I am very sorry to hear of Hugh's passing. Like many, I too, have spent a lot of time in hospital fighting cancer. He and I used to talk quite a bit about his mathematical work while doing chemotherapy together.

A real character!

David Lillis

DeeM said...

Hopefully Hugh's books will stay around for the next generation to read and learn from.
The recent media attack (almost certainly supported by government) on publications and writers who dare challenge the Maori radical movement make that less certain than it should be.
Let's get rid of this racist, separatist mob and preserve Hugh's's the least we can do!