A Tribute to Graeme Sturgeon

24th July 1948 – 28th February 2022


After being poisoned with Agent Orange in Vietnam in 1967 ( an action the NZ government spent 40 years denying),Graeme Sturgeon drove his campervan around NZ bearing the banner, “Enjoy Paradise Now Before DOC Poisons It To Hell.”

During his lifetime, Graeme Sturgeon was a Kiwi soldier in Vietnam, deer culler, possum trapper, pest control officer, helicopter pilot, youth trainer, inventor, whistle blower and author. He was a resolute participant in the resistance movement against the use of poisons for predator control.

Graeme Sturgeon silhouetted on Tairua Hill during the poisoning of the Whenuakite Public Conservation Forest, 29 November 2019. Photo Diana Halstead.

Graeme’s departure was theatrical and mythical. We gathered near dark on the Wyuna Bay Peninsula. From the height of the ridge, facing the sun going down into the Hauraki Gulf, we looked out over a still ocean, rippling blue, silver amongst black islands. Ahead of the boat towing the dingy pyre, a line of Canada geese flew past, honking homeward.

We watched the tiny convoy moving silently, steadily across the sea through the sun’s burning reflection. It came to a standstill beneath the Sturgeon homestead. We heard the reading, “At the going down of the sun”, and the bugle playing The Last Post. Then flames rose from the water and fireworks exploded in the sky. A warrior had passed. 

We took a swig of home made whisky spiced with vanilla and spoke of the adventures and mis- adventures Graeme had led us into. In the darkness the fire lit up the smoke shrouding the burning dingy. How grand to have lived one’s life robustly and be thoroughly done with.

Graeme published three books based on his intrepid life: Dustoff for Willie Peters (1998) about his adventures as a hunter and soldier. Beneath the Southern Cross (2008), a historical fiction about a Pākehā Māori on the West Coast in the early 1800s. Hunters and the Hunted (2014) about his life as a deer culler, possum trapper, and helicopter live-capture hunter in the Ruahine ranges. Copies of Dustoff and Southern Cross can be obtained from Julie Sturgeon julie-sturgeon@hotmail.com at $20 includes postage.

Shortly before he died, Graeme collected newspaper clippings and his amusing and dire testimonies to the misuse of 1080 as a predator control agent in NZ forests, under the title Bushscribe Whistleblower (handmade book 2022). A PDF of Bushscribe Whistleblower is free to download ( see below).

Interviews with Graeme Sturgeon can be watched on YouTube under the titles The Crown vs Graeme Sturgeon, and Graeme Sturgeon A Bushman Speaks.

Wishing you all well,

Wendy Pond

Graeme Sturgeon ” Bushscribe Whistleblower”

Rest in Peace, Graeme, The hunter home from the hills, the sailor home from the sea.

Your writings and whistleblowing articles live on to challenge our society’s use of poisons and how we manage ecosystems. You advocated for professional trapping and “gamekeepers” who would know intimately an ecosystem and know the behaviour of the so-called animal pest. You vehemently opposed mass poisoning of forest ecosystems based on your first-hand experience working for the Forest Service and later the Department of Conservation.

With your wife Julie, you set up a successful Polytech training course for trappers.

As a young man, only 19 years old, you served in the Vietnam war with the NZ Army, and suffered life-long health issues due to poisoning by Agent Orange. Yet you kept your humanity and humour, and worked to make this world a better place.

Thank you Graeme. This collection of your writings, aptly named “Bushscribe Whistleblower” is here for all to download and read.

Stephanie McKee


Sign up for a weekly newsletter with the latest blog posts and exclusive content. In your inbox every Tuesday!