John graduated from Creswick in 1964 and from Melbourne University in 1967. He worked for the Forests Commission in Research, Working Plans, FEAR and Statutory Planning branches. From 1971 to 1978 he was a research officer at the Land Conservation Council. In 1986 John became Manager of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, and in 1993 Director of Parks and Gardens with Brisbane City Council.
In retirement John returned to forestry, and with his wife, owns some dry sclerophyll forest and a spotted gum plantation in northern New South Wales which are managed for wood production.