Obituary: One Person Can Make a Difference


William James Ballantine
15 April 1937 – 1 November 2015

A true conservation champion – the father of marine reserves

While working at the University of Auckland Marine Laboratory at Leigh, Bill recognised the need for marine reserves. He was a relentless campaigner for marine protection. After overcoming significant resistance he was rewarded in 1975 when New Zealand’s first marine reserve was created at Goat Island, Leigh.

There are now 36 marine reserves in New Zealand and counting!

Originally from England, Bill came to New Zealand to take up a lecturing post at University of Auckland. He soon shifted to the Marine Laboratory at Leigh as its resident biologist and later its director. United Nations recognised his efforts by awarding him the prestigious Goldman Environmental prize in 1996.

Today the Goat Island marine reserve is one of the most popular diving spots in the country, renowned for its variety and abundance of marine life. This is only part of the legacy that Bill leaves behind. It is a lasting tribute to his dedication and commitment.

Next time you’re enjoying the spectacular marine life in a marine reserve, spare a thought for the tireless efforts of this man who has given us so much. His legacy continues as others follow in his inspirational footsteps.


Bill’s farewell was held in Leigh’s Community Hall on 11 November.

I have known Bill for many years. It was an honour in 2004 to present him with the ‘Wyland Foundation – Dive New Zealand magazine Recognition Award’ for his work and passion for establishing New Zealand’s first marine reserve at Goat Island, Leigh, north of Auckland.

At his farewell I learnt about Bill the family man, Poppa to his five grandchildren. The families’ love expressed filled the hall.

The remaining speeches reminded us of a man who was uncompromising in his battle to further his undisputed passion for a network of marine reserves and caring for the marine environment. Amazing for a man who did not dive.

Many a happy chuckle filled the hall as speakers recalled their debates with Bill. They always lost!

The grandchildren were proud of their Poppa – now their pride for him is confirmed by his academic and political peers. He sure was an outstanding Poppa!

Dave Moran.



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