Vale – Dr Peter Woodgate.

The forestry and spatial science worlds are deeply saddened and shocked by the sudden passing of Dr Peter Wyndham Woodgate on Friday 23rd December 2022.

Peter was much admired and loved by his colleagues and friends. He dedicated his career to the study of forests and the use of spatial technologies, with his work having a profound impact on the lives of many Australians.

Peter was part of the 1976 scholarship intake at the Victorian School of Forestry (VSF) at Creswick to commence the Diploma of Forestry course. He was popular amongst the students and highly regarded for his engaging conversation skills, and also as a leader of the school basketball team. At a time when most students drove old second hand cars, Peter also stood out by driving a brand new Mini Sports and sometimes even a luxurious Triumph Stag, as his father was a senior executive within Leyland Australia, at this time.

After completing his Diploma in 1978, Peter spent the following year working for Forest Research Branch at Yarram, for the former Forests Commission Victoria (FCV). The basic accommodation provided for this posting consisted of an acquired farmhouse on top of the Strzelecki Ranges (often shrouded in cloud), which he shared with other staff, and a somewhat busy family of wombats beneath floor level.

Peter then spent the next two years at the University of Melbourne, where he completed a Bachelor of Forest Science, by the end of 1981.

In early 1982, he was posted by FCV to the Forest Assessment Branch, which at that time was based within the former Head Office at 601 Bourke St, Melbourne.

In the aftermath of the 1983 Ash Wednesday Fires, Peter was tasked with leading a team to map and assess both the extent and volume of valuable timber resources, which could be salvaged from the Central Highlands. This was a pivotal period in his life when Peter first appreciated the significant value of remote sensing tools, and the massive potential for technological advancement and broader applications both within and outside the forest industry.

Between 1988 and 1991 he was commissioned by both the Victorian and Federal Governments to provide historic tree clearing data from satellite imagery, which resulted in new land use policies and legislation. Peter also completed a Masters Degree in Applied Science (Remote Sensing) from the University of NSW in 1991.

He was Manager of the Victorian Old-Growth Forest Study from 1991 to 1994, which resulted in development the first practical definition of old-growth (later adopted as  the National standard), and a series of old-growth forest maps across Victoria, both of which remain a valuable management tool to this day.

During the Kennett era (1994 to 1998), Peter was CEO for the semi-autonomous Natural Resource Systems Corporation, which he grew to a large business with over 100 staff and an annual turnover of about $5M, for ultimate sale to the private sector. However, prior to sale the Corporation was absorbed back into Government as a core service.

In 1999, Peter moved across to the private sector and joined RMIT University as the CEO of the Geospatial Science Initiative, which ultimately led to creation of the Co-operative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRC-SI), with its later incorporation as Frontier SI in 2017. During this period he became known as a trailblazer and leader of spatial information technologies across Australia. Amongst his many achievements, working at the interface between research and industry, he was the director and inaugural president of the newly created Geospatial Council of Australia (CGA), board member of the Public Sector Mapping Agencies (PSMA), and chaired SmartSat CRC (a space capability research consortium), Aurin (an eResearch provider group) and also Canthera Discovery (a cancer research organisation).
He completed a Doctor of Business Administration from RMIT University in 2007.

Amongst his many awards, he is an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne, an honorary fellow of the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute, a life member of the International Society for Digital Earth, and a graduate of the Institute of Company Directors.

Peter’s advice was highly sought by government on forest cover change, carbon assessment and monitoring, disaster risk management, livestock monitoring and forest ecology and conservation and spatial science. Peter also worked extensively internationally. Highlights included his membership of the Inaugural Joint Commission Steering Committee on Science and Technology visit to Washington which developed joint science programs between the Australia and the USA under a formal protocol established by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was a leader in the delegation to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Ministerial Summit in Beijing in 2010, and part of a group that established the International Carbon Monitoring Initiative in 2009.

Peter was extremely generous with his time and contributed across society. He was inaugural Chair of the Research Committee of the Mornington Peninsula and Westernport Biosphere Foundation, a UNESCO body formed to promote ecologically sustainable development, a member of the Council of Charles Sturt University, and Chair of numerous committee and advisory bodies. He was an office bearer, coach, club Historian and Life Member of Ashburton Willows Cricket Club. He helped create a Cricket Academy to provide specialist training to junior players. He was also active with the Old Carey Athletics Club.

The many tributes that have flowed from various organisations over recent weeks, are all testament to a stellar career in forestry and remote sensing technologies, as well as a person universally regarded as a true gentlemen, visionary leader, respectful contributor and patient mentor.

Peter is one of many forestry graduates who diverged from mainstream forestry to excel in a related discipline. With his passing, the broad forestry community has sadly lost one of its tallest timbers.

His fellow students from Creswick and the University of Melbourne, who knew him affectionately as Wyndy, would not be surprised that he continued to stand out amongst the crowd, throughout his chosen career pathway.

Deepest condolences go out to his wife Janet, daughter Bronwyn and son William, during this difficult period from his wide circle of forestry and remote sensing friends and colleagues.

Written by Martin Woodward (Paddy) in collaboration with his VSF classmates and with input from William Woodgate, Rod Keenan from Melbourne University and Peter McHugh from the Forests Commission Retired Personnel Association (FCRPA).

First Year Class at the VSF in February 1976.
Back Row (l to r) Martin Woodward, ? Mollison, David Miller, Geoff Pike, Gary White, Fiona Hamilton
Second from Back Row (l to r) Peter Keppel, Peter Woodgate, Adrian Hatch, Michael Morley, Anne Coleman, Anthony (Tony) Edgar.
Second from Front Row (l to r) Sue Lowther, David Gallacher, Fred Cumming, Bruce Wehner, Megan Varty.
Front Row (l to r) Peter Stoddart, A Taylor, ? Mollison.

2 thoughts on “Vale – Dr Peter Woodgate.

  1. I’m proud to have contributed towards a fitting forestry tribute for my old mate Peter (Wyndy) Woodgate, and will sadly miss the genuine friendship, dry humour and sage advice, of a true scholar and gentleman. Martin (Paddy) Woodward


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