Former union and environmental activist Jack Mundey speaks to media.
Former union and environmental activist Jack Mundey speaks to media.

Union leader Jack Mundey dies, aged 90

Trade union leader and environmental activist Jack Mundey has been hailed as a visionary whose legacy will "echo through the ages", after his death at the age of 90.

Mr Mundey, who died on Sunday after a long illness, led the green bans movement that helped save many historic Sydney sites in the 1970s.

Unionists and environmentalists led the tributes to the prominent communist and leader of the militant NSW Builders Labourers Federation.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said Mr Mundey changed the face and direction of unionism in Australia.

"Jack believed in the broader collective achievement of the working class and aspired to a better world for all," Ms McManus said on Monday.

"Vale to a man who reshaped Australian union history, whose legacy is there for all to see in the beauty of Sydney and whose principles shone through until the end."

CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan described Mr Mundey as a great man and a giant of the Australian and global trade union movement.

"Jack was a visionary and an inspiration to all unionists and activists," Mr Noonan tweeted.

Mr Noonan said anyone who has enjoyed Sydney's unique heritage and open spaces has Mr Mundey to thank, pointing to places like Kelly's Bush, Centennial Park, The Rocks and Wooloomooloo.

"Jack showed that trade unions have the power to change our society for the better. His legacy is one that will echo through the ages," he said in a statement.

Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt also described Mr Mundey as a visionary.

"Jack Mundey showed us that fighting for people and the environment went hand in hand," Mr Bandt tweeted.

Environmentalist and former Greens leader Bob Brown said Mr Mundey was a thoughtful man and a peaceful and courageous social revolutionary.

"The world has lost his presence but that inspiration will live on and be critical for the coming generations," Mr Brown said.

Born in Malanda in far north Queensland, Mr Mundey moved to Sydney aged 19, mainly to play rugby league and had three seasons with Parramatta.

He joined the Communist Party of Australia in 1957 because, he said, it was the most militant group fighting for basic things like wages and conditions.

In 1968 he was elected secretary of the NSW BLF.

Three years later green bans had an unlikely start, when a group of middle-class women approached the BLF to help save the last bushland in Hunters Hill - Kelly's Bush - from development.

By 1974, 42 green bans had been imposed, stopping more than $3 billion worth of development.

Mr Mundey was a life member of the Australian Conservation Foundation and chair of the NSW Historic Houses Trust.

He is survived by his second wife, Judy.

Mr Mundey's first wife died young and their son Michael was killed in a car accident aged 22.

Originally published as Union leader Jack Mundey dies, aged 90