Ray was born in Auckland and first visited Kawau when he was a teenager, working as an engineer on the passenger and transport boat, Naroma, which operated throughout the Hauraki Gulf in the 1950s.
From a young age, Ray was passionate about native plants and animals, and history and geology. The island provided a rich environment for him to explore. He began privately prospecting for copper on the island in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
In the 1950s he became concerned about the future of the island’s native plants and birdlife and wrote to the Minister of Crown Lands expressing his dismay at the damage possums and wallabies were causing. From that point on he devoted his life to conservation on the island.
Although he always had a permanent home in Auckland, he began visiting Kawau at every opportunity.
When family friends, the Parsons, retired to the island in 1960s Ray gained a foothold and regularly spent weekends there with his brother Carl.
He helped get electricity onto the island with the first generator being installed at the Kawau Island Yacht Club in December 1959.
In the late 1970s Ray purchased 70 hectares of regenerating forest and built a house with Carl.
Ray was also a member of the Kawau Island Residents and Ratepayers Association (KIRRA) and Auckland Council’s Kawau Advisory Committee. His knowledge of the island’s history and selfless work ethic was a valuable resource. Recently he had been leading KIRRA’s submission on Council’s Unitary Plan, which focused on challenging the designation of Significant Ecological Areas (SEAs) on the island and ensuring residents had beach access for their boats.
Ray was also a founding member of the Northern Action Group (NAG) which has attempted to establish an independent North Rodney council. He was an opponent of Rodney’s incorporation into the Super City and believed the district was better managed under Rodney District Council.
Ray died suddenly at his home in Ellerslie on July 3. A service was held at the All Saints Chapel, Purewa Crematorium in Meadowbank on July 13.