"With her death, a Totara has fallen," Wellington writer Fleur Beale said of Margaret Mahy's passing and, she was a well loved one at that.
Margaret Mahy was a fabulously fantastic storyteller who cast a spell over many of our lives with her way with words. I remember well going to visit her 6 years ago. I was new in the job and she was one of Greenpeace's biggest fans and oldest supporters, having been part of Greenpeace since the 1980s.
I was feeling slightly nervous about meeting one of the NZ's literary giants but she made us feel so welcome and was so grateful for what Greenpeace was doing that sitting and drinking tea in her cosy Governor Bay house felt like sitting at home. She told us that when she first joined Greenpeace, there were "not too many voices on behalf of the environment" and she considered Greenpeace a very necessary one.
She was delightful, big hearted and slightly eccentric and you could immediately see what made her a wonderful storyteller but also a dedicated environmentalist. "Human beings are part of the natural world" she said, "and we should be intelligent enough to hold back from destroying it." It was her grandchildren she told us, that had intensified her concern about the environment, she wanted them "to grow up in a world where a natural environment still exists.
Margaret not only financially supported us but got enthusiastically involved. In 2007 as part of our 'be the change' campaign she helped us tell the story of the importance of energy efficiency and how you can help and save yourself money at the same time. You can see it here:
Mahy wrote more than 200 books and poems and won many prestigious children's book awards, including the Carnegie Medal, and was the only New Zealander to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Award.
Margaret struck me as a little bit naughty, maybe that is why she loved Greenpeace and why it was so easy for us to warm to her. I am so glad that generations of NZ kids will continue to be delighted by her stories and, although our forest is now missing a totara, it has not fallen unnoticed and will be missed..
Greenpeace honours and thanks you Margaret for your unerring support and wonderful telling.