THE Sunshine Coast's best known gardening guru Colin Campbell has died this morning after a short battle with cancer. He was 78.
Mr Campbell, who lived at Maleny and was one of the most popular speakers at the Queensland Garden Expo, had only retired from Fairfax Radio 4BC on New Year's Day this year.
He died at Maleny hospital in the early hours of this morning with his wife Beverley and son Stuart by his side.
The family had only recently returned from an overseas trip.
The well-loved local was also a Queensland presenter on the ABC's Gardening Australia program and also contributed to the show's magazine.
He was also a key figure in developing the hugely popular garden expo at Nambour, the largest annual show of its kind in Australia with more than 30,000 people attending each year.
Mr Campbell was passionate about the health benefits of gardening - and their environmental significance.
In an interview with the Daily last year, he panned the carbon tax, saying there should be an oxygen tax on those who fail to see the common sense of planting more trees and establishing community gardens to grow our own fruit and vegetables.
Mr Campbell took the opportunity of the opening ceremony of the garden expo to send a clear message to politicians that they should be pouring more into our nursery industry to promote gardening - rather than pursuing a carbon tax.
He singled out a Senator who criticised the Department of Education for spending $1m on indoor plants.
Mr Campbell said a recent study, being carried out by the University of Technology in Sydney, highlighted the clear health and productivity benefits of having more green life in our offices.
Not only did they cut down on carbon and chemical emissions but also improved absenteeism by 68%.
"It's incredible,'' Mr Campbell said.
He said he believed the horticulture industry, politicians, and the mainstream media had to do far more to promote the positive benefits of gardening.
Mr Campbell said his 92-year-old mother-in-law still cooked, cleaned and gardened.
"Her garden has kept her out of a nursing home.''
Mr Campbell said he was concerned with the move to smaller lot sizes that the great tradition of having a garden would be lost.
He said communities would have to increasingly move towards community gardens in neighbourhoods where people could share the joy of growing their own food.
Mr Campbell said he had visited garden events all over the world and the Nambour event was one of the best.
"The expo fulfils a fabulous role. It encourages people to garden. It educates old and new gardeners.
"It stimulates people ... it inspires people. It entertains. It is a one stop opportunity to see the best this garden industry has to offer.''
Premier pays tributes to Colin Campbell OAM
Premier Campbell Newman today paid tribute to renowned and respected garden guru Col Campbell OAM, who passed away on the Sunshine Coast after a short battle with cancer.
Mr Newman said Col Campbell was an institution with not only his much loved 4BC listeners and Gardening Australia viewers, but with gardeners Australia wide.
"Col Campbell was one of the most knowledgeable and respected people in his field and his influence in the horticultural industry spread over some five decades," Mr Newman said.
"I had the pleasure of working closely with him during my time as the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, and he will be sadly missed.
"He was a strong advocate of waterwise gardening and the health benefits that gardening has to offer people of all ages.
"He received many accolades and awards for his contribution to the industry that he dearly loved, including the Gold Wattle Award by the Australian Institute of Horti culture in October 2011 - only the second time the award was made available in the 51 year history of AIH."
Colin Campbell was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2007 for services to horticulture and the horticultural media.
His gardening show on 4BC consistently rated highly, his Courier Mail column was widely read and he was a great advocate of gardeners' rights, especially during the water shortage problems earlier this decade.
"On behalf of the Parliament of Queensland I express my deepest sympathy to Col's wife Bev and their family, and acknowledge his contribution to the community," Mr Newman said.
"Col's memory will live on, not only through his family, but in the gardens of Queensland and the Roma Street Parklands, which he proposed."
Former colleague pays tribute
A former colleague of Mr Campbell's at 4BC, Murray Shoring, told Fairfax Media it was a ''shock to everyone who worked with him''.
''Col was the sort of person you would never expect this to happen to. Col was going to be the sort of guy who was going to be here until he was 100 at least,'' Mr Shoring said.
4BC news director Scott Mayman, who first worked with Mr Campbell in 1994, said the popular host always knew how to hold a conversation.
''He loved to have a chat, not just about gardening but about social matters, current events, that sort of thing,'' Mr Mayman said.
At the time of Mr Campbell's retirement, 4BC general manager David McDonald said Mr Campbell's influence in the horticultural industry had been spread over five decades.
"He has had nothing but a positive influence on both the station and the gardening industry over many, many years," he said.
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