Environmental Defenders

Raewyn Peart

Environmental Defenders



For over 50 years the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has been at the forefront of protecting Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural environments.
From the Think Big power projects of the 1970s, to coastal developments on pristine northland beaches and the destruction of the Mackenzie Country’s unique drylands habitat, EDS has used the law to hold developers, businesses, councils and government to account and develop new legal frameworks to protect our precious landscapes. This is the story of how a small organisation took on the establishment and won.
In 1971, there was little in the way of protection for Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique natural heritage. Progress was the imperative for government and councils, with the land, rivers and coasts simply seen as resources to be exploited.
As the negative impacts of economic growth on the country’s natural environments grew, so did public disquiet. However, there seemed little that ordinary citizens could do – raw sewage was being pumped into the Waikato River, rubbish was being dumped on Auckland’s coasts and the toxic 2,4,5-T was being liberally sprayed over the countryside.
What was needed was an organisation that could speak for the environment – an environmental defender. Accordingly, a coalition of lawyers, scientists, students and other citizens was formed, the Environmental Defence Society (EDS), and for over fifty years it has been dedicated to the protection of the environment through legal action in the courts, law reform and public education.
The story of EDS is a chronology of the country’s key environmental events over half a century. the society has been a vital player in mobilising the law to achieve important environmental protections as well as assisting communities to protect their special places. However, the work is not done. Although progress has been impressive, many of the issues around coastal development, freshwater quality, biodiversity and protecting outstanding natural and cultural landscapes are still with us today. new Zealand’s environment is still in need of defenders.

Additional information




190 x 252 mm

Book Type


Author Raewyn Peart
Author Bio

Raewyn Peart MNZM completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences at the University of Waikato in 1980, and a law degree and commerce degree at the University of Otago in 1987. After working in commercial litigation, she travelled overseas, including to South Africa, where she worked for the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research as an environmental policy analyst. While in South Africa, she also completed a Master of Commerce at the University of Natal.
In 1999 Peart became a director of the newly re-established Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and on returning to New Zealand in 2001, she started working for the society as a policy analyst. Over the subsequent 20 years Peart researched and published numerous reports and books on the environmental issues facing Aotearoa New Zealand with a particular focus on coastal and marine management.
In 2019, Peart was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to environmental and conservation policy. She lives in Auckland.

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