Dr Ian Popay – 1942-2019

Ian was born in 1942 in Bradford, England. He was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar and studied botany at Manchester University, going on to complete his PhD. Prior to his PhD, he and a group of his University friends visited the Middle East for 5-6 months which stoked Ian’s great passion for overseas travel. The PhD fueled his lifelong lifelong dedication to weed ecology. Following the completion of his doctorate, Ian relocated to Uganda, then Kenya, as a Cotton Research Officer over the next five years.

Ian moved to New Zealand and started work at the Ministry of Agriculture in Palmerston (Bachelar Centre) on 31 January 1973, with his first weed focus on the management of barley grass. He continued to travel widely and loved the great outdoors, climbing Mount Taranaki on several occasions, botanising as he climbed (of course).

As well as his research, Ian has always ensured that this information was made available, to policy, management and weed practitioners. He was a member of the Noxious Plants Council Technical Classification Committee in the 1980s, also being a very active supporter of NZPPS.

Ian had his accident in February 1991; a rolled quad bike on a farm left him a paraplegic. He got through it with his characteristic optimism and perseverance, and the support of many of his friends, his wife Alison above all. Ian was always very positive and determined but he never let the many trials and tribulations get him down, always putting on a brave face and a cheery “hey ho” and got on with it. Undaunted, he continued to not only carry out his research, but also was a leading light in the agricultural weed arena.

Ian was an executive member of NZPPS in the late 1990’s and President from 2004-2005. He led the way for NZPPS to join the Council of Australasian Weed Societies (CAWS) in 2006. Ian was also a major influencer in the old Institute of Noxious Plants Officers which morphed into the NZ Biosecurity Institute. Ian was nominated and received their prestigious Peter Ingram Award in 2011.

In the mid 1990’s, Ian together with Anis Rahman, Paul Champion, Trevor James and Bay of Plenty farmer Bruce Roy voluntarily worked on behalf of NZPPS to produce ‘An Illustrated Guide to the Common Weeds of NZ’ launched in 1998. This book is now in it’s third edition with two other publications on grasses, sedges and rushes and weed seeds also produced by the team.

Ian finished work at AgResearch in 1999 and joined the Department of Conservation in 2001. Here he was introduced to environment weeds and their management. He was immensely popular at DOC and acted as a mentor to many weed folk both within and outside of the Department. The subsequent editions of the weed book (2004 and 2010) included more and more of these often very attractive plants, almost all being garden escapes. After DOC, he was awarded an emeritus position with Landcare Research allowing him to continue his work from an office on the Hamilton campus.

Aside from his science career, Ian was increasingly active in his local community. He always was very community focused and most recently taught English to migrants, helped prisoners with literacy, helped students at Melville High School with their reading and fulfilled other roles with the Citizens Advice Bureau and Volunteering Waikato.

Ian is survived by his wife Alison and three children Kate, Simon and Tessa.

Trevor James & Paul Champion