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In the early 1970s, Bill, an electronics engineer recently arrived from the Netherlands, started working for AWA, servicing the local maritime industry. This was at a time when the fishing industry was going through major changes— moving from owner operators to corporates, larger vessels, more complex processing, changing fisheries management, increasing compliance demands and huge leaps in technology.
Satellites were coming in, and fishing boats moved from fishing at depths of 200 metres to looking for orange roughy at 1200 metres. Helping bring that technology to the boats earned Bill huge respect with the fisherman and within the industry.
Around 1990 Bill de Beer joined the School of Fisheries at NMIT (then Nelson Polytechnic) as a tutor and technician and over the next 10 years he trained many skippers in electronics. As well as looking after the then new bridge simulator, Bill’s skills were put to good use adapting and improving things for the benefit of the maritime industry.
NMIT fisheries tutor, Alec Woods worked alongside Bill for around six years and says he was well respected and well-loved by staff and students alike.
“He had a good way of connecting with people—he was genuine. Even after he retired Bill would pop in for a chat and a coffee. He was very proud of what the institute had achieved.”
Hugh Walton, Former Head of the School of Fisheries has also paid tribute to Bill de Beer.
I first met Bill in 1995 when I returned to Nelson from the Pacific to take up the role of Head of the New Zealand School of Fisheries where Bill was one of the very valued staff along with key personnel – Alastair Robertson, Yoost Bessier, John Moore, Alec Woods, Simon Reid and Brian Fossett. What a team we were back then.
Bill led the front edge of the navigation and fishing simulator embracing of emerging electronic technology in the context of fisheries and vessel tracking. Our School navigation simulator was state of the art and almost entirely attributable to Bill as he adapted it to take account of the ever-emerging technology. This tool helped the countries fishing skippers and mates learn and understand electronic navigation in its early days of its evolution. I could not count the number of people Bill helped through their `tickets’.
Bill was humble and unassuming. He never looked for credit or expected it, but he certainly deserved it. His contribution to the New Zealand seafood industry has been enormous and he will be sadly missed.
We have already lost Simon, John and Alastair – all also significant contributors to the New Zealand seafood industry in their own right and now, sadly, we add Bill to that list.
Our collective thoughts are with his whānau.
William (Bill) de Beer passed peacefully away at home on March 15, 2022, aged 88 years.
Read more about Bill de Beer’s maritime legacy in this article written by Debbie Hannan, for the New Zealand Seafood magazine [PDF, 1.3 MB]in 2018.