Posted on Feb. 5, 2012.
New Zealand lost one its renewables pioneers on Friday night .
Barrie Leay had been involved in, pushing for, and finding solutions for renewable technologies since the 60s….long before it was even marginally fashionable. And he continued to do so literally until the day he died.
Barrie filled a room when he walked into it. Huge smile, great laugh …and interested in everything. He was incredibly well read across so many areas and able to connect the dots even where you didn’t know there were dots.
He was an incurable but practical optimist, always looking past the immediate problems to the solution. He followed up the optimism with action and deeds. Around Barrie, you never felt like anything was actually hard or difficult even when it meant changing the world.
Barrie was also around at the start of Celsias.
He was the General Secretary of the National Party when Robert Muldoon was in charge and I think if you want a crash course in how to work around obstacles and in diplomacy and politics, that’s probably the job that would do it.
Chair of Windflow Technology in Christchurch, Aquaflow Bionomic in Nelson who have learned how to harvest algae and are in the middle of some very exciting developments in ready made fuels, he was also a director of Solar City who have just announced a big new solar contract for the new Highfield subdivision in Christchurch. I have long ago lost track of the number of companies he was involved in.
Til 1997 he was Executive Director of Electricity Supply Association of New Zealand, and then Chairman of the APEC Energy Business Network for Asia Pacific.
He was a very strong believer in the world’s capacity to avoid the extreme effects of climate change through technological innovation. A geologist by training he was a constant learner, so if he didn’t understand something he would listen intently while it was outlined to him and then he would ask questions until he had it pretty much mastered .
Aptly he was in Australia presenting at an Alternative Fuels conference and he suffered a heart attack –near the end of the conference .
He had a huge smile and a total “can do” attitude that he lived. He made things happen everywhere, was a political junkie having advised on politics around the world, chose champagne usually when there was time for a drink, constantly thought rules that he didn’t like did not include him so never wore a seat belt, had a huge smile and huge laugh, was in awe and wonderment at how cool his family were, the things his wife Gloria did, his daughters Sue and Carol who he was so proud of, and his grandkids who provided endless delight and amazement as he played and taught and had them on.
He was a great story teller. And in many ways a bit of a walking Facebook. Waiting in an airport with Barrie was like an exercise in connectivity because always he knew someone there.
Barrie was one special guy and it’s hard to believe he won’t ring and tell some news or need a coffee when he’s here in Christchurch. Its hard to believe we wont actually hear his assessment of something as "stunning " in the strange way he pronounced that word.
He was actually in Christchurch on February 22nd and was in a building in town . Got out okay to discover his hotel also a no go area. Not too keen on the big tent in Hagley Park he and Keith, a fellow director kept walking and spent the night in our lounge as every house in the city rocked and rolled with the aftershocks.
Barrie is one of those inspirational people you meet . Originally from England he was so much in love with New Zealand and with all the potential and talent that he saw here.
And there is a huge Barrie gap in so many of our worlds.