Remembering Rod Oram

Published 22 March 2024

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Rod Oram. Rod was a strong supporter of EIANZ, having appeared as a keynote speaker at our annual conference in Auckland (2023) and New Zealand Symposium in Wellington (2015).

There have been many tributes this week from colleagues in the environmental sphere, along with those from journalism, business, politics and from individuals touched by his intellect, professionalism, kindness, and commitment to New Zealand/Aotearoa.

Former EIANZ Vice President (New Zealand) Di Buchan captures it all: ‘Rod was fearless in expressing his views on a huge range of issues; his views were always based on sound research and gently but firmly put. He cared deeply about people and the environment, and he was clear as to what needed to be done to make the world a better place’.

At our recent conference in Auckland, Rod inspired us with his talk ‘Everything, Everywhere, All At Once: what we must do to solve our multiple interdependent crises’. He challenged us to move beyond the present where we are constrained and have too much vested interest; and to ‘stand in the future’ and liberate ourselves – a remarkable message to humanity. He implored us to set ‘audacious goals that we have no idea how to achieve’ so we can ‘imagine how to rise to meet them’.

Chair of the 2023 Auckland conference, Ian Boothroyd, said: ‘I was deeply moved by Rod’s presentation, and his humble yet passionate embrace of humanity with his expression of what we have to do for our planet. His message will live on, and EIANZ will carry the weight of his challenge into the future’.

Rod was born in the United Kingdom and spent 20 years as an international financial journalist in Europe and North America, travelling extensively in those continents and in Asia. Rod held various journalist positions in Canada from 1975 to 1979, and from 1979 to 1997 he held a variety of posts at the Financial Times, London and New York City. In 1997, Rod and his family emigrated to New Zealand, where he was editor of the Business Herald section of The New Zealand Herald from 1997 to 2000.

Rod was a triple award winner at the 2004 Qantas Media Awards; as business columnist of the year, business feature writer of the year and winner of the NZTE travel scholarship for his writing on innovation in New Zealand. In the 2006 Westpac Business & Financial Journalism Awards, Rod won the Reporting on Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability or Community Engagement category.

In 2007, Penguin published Rod’s book, Reinventing Paradise, about the New Zealand economy, which was followed in 2016 by a further treatise Three Cities: Seeking Hope in the Anthropocene. He was also invited to present Reinventing Paradise at the prestigious 2017 Salmon Lecture for the Resource Management Law Association.

As an Edmund Hillary Fellow, Rod was part of a community of 500-plus innovators, entrepreneurs and investors committed to New Zealand as a basecamp for global impact, with a purpose to partner with Aotearoa NZ to find and build solutions to our toughest challenges.

He was also a keen cyclist, repeatedly completing New Zealand-wide events and in recent years riding with groups across Asia and the Caucasus. EIANZ Fellow Judith Roper-Lindsay had lunch with him during last year's conference in Auckland. She comments that his enthusiastic description of a planned cycling trip from Beijing to Birmingham was interspersed with analysis of the environmental, social and cultural issues he would meet along the way.

Among Rod’s closing comments from his presentation at the 2023 conference was a personal reflection on his daughter and the younger generation, and how they can ‘renew humanity and do better than we have’. That statement might be Rod’s epitaph and leaves behind something we should all live up to.

Our thanks to Ian Boothroyd FEIANZ (Vice President: New Zealand), Judith Roper-Lindsay FEIANZ and Di Buchan HLMEIANZ for putting this tribute together.