‘Hoss’ is a great loss for the Byron community

I MET Ian Hosken only recently, though I knew him by reputation.

He was one of the region's great characters, a radical Byron Shire councillor, pioneering hippie, house-builder, eco warrior, landscaper, craftsman, would-be ceramicist, nutty dancer.

Staff, Digby Hildreth.Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Staff, Digby Hildreth.Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

We were meant to meet again, to talk about his eight-year ride with cancer, but he declined rapidly and the opportunity never came.

Besides, time was precious and his life full - of children, family, friends, a 65th birthday party, surrounded by women and laughter.

We met at his home high in the hills above Main Arm, up a giddy-goat driveway, escarpments glowing nearby. Despite horrible pain and exhaustion, he was generous, keen to talk, and was strikingly present, alert, eyes bright with interest.

Hoss, or Hossi (never Ian, except to his mother) came to the region in 1979 after spending his 20s in Asia.

With far-sightedness, he bought into an MO - a corner of 170 plus acres for the price of a second-hand car - and planned on becoming self-sufficient, off the grid.

He was "pretty alternative", he says, and though the dream never really worked out, he built habitable huts, and later a comfortable house, cobbled together from recycled timber, some salvaged from the demolished buttery.

He also loved to party - there are photos of him sitting in a circle with other shirtless long-hairs, banging a drum, a Pan, a leaping, laughing gnome.

All the while he was heavily involved in the Terania Creek protest, the Franklin-below-Gordon dam scheme, a suite of anti-logging actions.

His activism cost him his first marriage, he says, a shattering time, because of the kids.

But it also achieved many notable victories: stopping the Becton development, restricting Byron Bay's building heights to three-storeys, preserving the coastal heathland up to Brunswick Heads.

"We stopped a lot of crass development," he says happily. "We got things done by being vocal."

And what a voice he had - pure Australia: unaffected, deep, nasal, ironic. It would have been raised loudly against recent anti-protest laws.

In 1995 he was elected to Byron council. It was "as stimulating as doing a degree" and strangers still thank him for his work.

Following diagnosis in 2008 he worked and partied less, attended a men's group, looked after horses, went camping with his partner Isobel, leaned towards the spiritual.

But "he would be wanting us to be pumping" today at his send-off, Issy says.

Dress code? Colourful, of course.

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