Well-known conservationist Arthur Hinds has been named as the farmer who died in a tragic accident cutting down trees on Saturday.
Hinds, 71, was struck by a tree he was felling on his farm at Whenuakite in eastern Coromandel.
Hinds' son Gary Hinds, a neighbouring farmer and head lifeguard at Hot Water Beach, said his father's death "came as a hell of a shock".
"I always expected him to go at some stage on the farm but I always thought I had about another 10 years before I'd be dealing with this."
Hinds had farmed in the area all his life and worked alongside his son for 20 years at one stage.
In 2013 Hinds won a prestigious Forest and Bird Old Blue award for a quarter century of conservation work in the Waikato and Coromandel, including leading one of New Zealand's most successful kiwi protection groups.
Hinds was involved with the Whenuakite Kiwi Care group in the Coromandel Peninsula since 2001.
The care group controls pests over an area of regenerating forest totalling about 4000 hectares.
Surveys showed the number of kiwi in the area more than tripled between 2001 and 2010 and the numbers of other species such as kaka and kereru were also growing fast.
For many years Hinds carried out pest control work on his farm, which included a large block of bush, as well as a neighbouring property he leased.
The Department of Conservation approached landowners in 2000 to expand the area being covered, and the Whenuakite Kiwi Care group was launched.
Hinds said at the time he had always cared about nature.
"Farmers can do a lot for the environment because they are working very closely with it," he said.
"I've probably always been reasonably environmentally aware because nature's always interested me - eels, birds - and it's only as you get older that you realise that we've destroyed a lot and it really worries me the legacy we are leaving for our great-grandchildren."
Hinds' policy of shooting dogs found loose in the care zone and his advocacy for the use of 1080 in suitable areas brought verbal attacks and even a physical assault in 2011.
A Thames man punched Hinds to the ground outside a public meeting in July 2011 as Hinds walked toward the hall in Tairua.
The 1080 protester tried to land a second blow but Hinds caught the man's arm. He was later convicted of common assault.
Hinds remained undeterred and his service to conservation continued, including chairing the Waikato Conservation Board and working with a range of community conservation groups.
Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said Hinds was "extraordinarily highly valued" within Forest and Bird where he was a long time member.
"He's been a staunch practical conservationist but also advocated for conservation work, even when that wasn't popular.
"He's been a very staunch defender of the need to use 1080 against pretty rough opposition."
Hinds was extensively quoted in Dave Hansford's book Protecting Paradise about New Zealand's native wildlife crisis.
He was also a Waikato Regional Councillor until 2007.
Gary Hinds said his father was a man of action and it was just like him to decide to cut down a tree.
"He just didn't sit back and talk. He was out there doing it."
Family members found Hinds who died at the scene. He had celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Diane at the beginning of September.
Hinds said his mother and two younger sisters Janice and Susan were coping as well as they could.
His father would be farewelled at a family funeral on the farm tomorrow.