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May 7, 2021

Tyalgum service for Hop.E Hopkins

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Story & photo Luis Feliu

A special service will be held at Tyalgum next Tuesday to celebrate the life of the founding co-ordinator of the Tweed’s Caldera Environment Centre, Paul ‘Hop.E’ Hopkins, who died last week after a long battle with cancer, aged 72.

The quietly spoken Hop.E, as he was known to friends, spent almost 40 years on the Tweed, where he lived on his property at Tyalgum after moving from Sydney.

A trained architect, Hop.E was on the team that designed the Sydney Opera House, led by Danish architect Joern Utzon. In 1966, the team resigned in protest at the treatment of Mr Utzon by the then coalition government.

The team’s work was eventually recognised when the Opera House achieved world-heritage listing.

Hop.E continued to lecture in architecture in Brisbane over the years.

Ironically, the rainforests and mountains around the Tweed Valley where he settled were also to become world-heritage listed and, right to the end, Hop.E was working toward having the Tweed caldera recognised as an internationally-significant ecological site, or biosphere region, under UNESCO.

From his early days in the Tweed Hop.E focused on preserving the Tweed’s unique environment under threat from overdevelopment.

There were many campaigns he fought and won, with help from a new generation of environmental activists who had also settled in the Tweed, such as former Tweed Greens councillor Henry James.

Some of these successful battles include the fight against the proposed logging of Wollumbin (Mt Warning), later to become a national park, and the campaign to stop a retirement village from being built on top of Mt Nullum (which led to the creation of scenic escarpment protection laws).

Acid soils

His work on development and its link with acid-sulphate soils led to a commission of inquiry into acid-sulphate soils. As a result, the Tweed became the leader in research on the problem.

Hop.E also helped inspire the World Environment Day celebrations in Murwillumbah’s Knox Park every year.

More recently, he was involved in submissions to minimise environmental impacts of the massive Cobaki and Kings Forest subdivisions.

His partner, Cynthia Brook, told Echonetdaily that Hop.E had concentrated more on submission writing in later years to try to minimise impacts of development on the environment as it was ‘harder to win battles to stop them these days’.

Current Caldera Environment Centre co-ordinator, Sam Dawson, said Hop.E and others established the CEC office in Murwillumbah in 1989 to raise awareness about the region’s biodiversity and magnificent natural assets.

Mr Dawson said the CEC was ‘probably the longest-running community environmental group in Australia’.

He said the CEC had since shifted its focus from opposing or trying to stop controversial developments to raising awareness as ‘the law had changed and made it harder for victories like those in the 1980s’.

Mr Dawson said the biosphere project was a consuming passion for Hop.E and the application for the UNESCO listing was currently being finalised by CEC volunteers.

Mr Hopkins is survived by his partner Cynthia Brook and adult children Nick, Tom and Thea.

The service will be held at Tyalgum Hall next Tuesday, September 18, at 11am.

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  1. Thanks Luis and to the Echo for acknowledging HopE’s valuable commitment and dedication to saving all that we value about the Tweed and indeed the fact that it is not only a valley but rhe erosion Caldera of the Tweed shield volcano, a refuge for many plants and amimals found nowhere else on earth.

  2. I will miss a most intelligent, hilarious, committed, and inspiring friend. Hoppy’s environmental and ethical wisdom has shaped my life and home. We worked together on many of his building projects through which I learned heaps.
    I’m sad that I can’t make it to his service at Tyalgum as my mum’s health has taken a turn for the worse and am flying down to see her immediately.
    Apart from the trees he and his fine family have planted over the decades, there was also the seeds of thought planted in the minds of all who knew and loved him.
    My fondest regards and respect go out to Cynthia, Nick, Thea and Tom. It has been a privelege to have been a part of the joyous collaborations we have shared.
    Love and deep respect, Tony A.


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