Noel 'Bill' Hicks

Environmental Innovator
Inducted 28 June 2017

Noel ‘Bill’ Hicks was born in Woollahra, Sydney in 1922.              

He attended Primary School and High School in Woollahra before completing his Electrical Engineer qualifications at Sydney Technical College.

Bill met his wife, Betty while working at a company together in Redfern. The couple were married for 73 years and had three children, six grandchildren and a number of great grandchildren.

Bill had a long and successful career as an Electrical Engineer, working in Australia, England, and the United States, before retiring in 1985 and moving to Laguna. It was here that he began a new career as a science innovator, which has brought him great acclaim.

A keen environmentalist, Bill has had a long involvement with projects to understand and protect Australia’s native flora and fauna.  Supported by NPWS, Bill undertook a pioneering program of research on the dietary requirements of koalas on his property in Oatley Bay, he was also a founding member of the Society for Growing Australian Plants, founding chairman of the David G. Stead Wildlife Research Station, founding secretary of the NSW Environment Centre and Chairman of the Nature Conservation Council. 

From his new home in the Watagans, Bill became involved with the Hunter Catchment Management Restoration Taskforce.  Stemming from a concern about the extensive use of exotic and invasive willow species in river and stream bank stabilisation projects, Bill developed a new technique for planting on restoration sites that allowed native species to be used instead of the willows.  

This new technique challenged long held horticultural principals, but field trials demonstrated a greatly increased survival rate of native plantings.  River and stream bank restoration projects that had previously been using willows for their ability to easily establish and protect the banks, were now able to substitute native plants, helping to re-establish local habitat, and increase biodiversity.

In 1989, the Catchment Management Trust and Department of Land and Water Conservation approached Bill to supply 25,000 trees for the Hunter River Planting Program. The project was a huge success and generated many new orders and interest in the technique.  Bill and his wife Betty began to travel across Australia showcasing the benefits of Longstem Deep Planting. 

The technique is now recognised as part of best practice stream and river restoration, and is used nationally and internationally, with projects in Central Africa, Egypt, USA, and England.

For more information:

Plaque location

Corner Wollombi Rd and Great North Rd, Wollombi