History of ECO

ECO has had a long history of engagement on a wide range of environment and conservation issues.

Following the 'Save Manapouri campaign’ there was a feeling among many conservation groups of the need for some form of federation that could express a unified opinion. A decision by about 40 groups was made to establish ECO towards the end of 1971 as CoEnCo (NZ Conference on Environment and Conservation) to meet the needs of the conservation community and incorporated in 1972.  The founding Chair of CoEnCO was John Salmon.

CoEnCo became ECO in 1976.

Throughout its history ECO's work has been mainly carried out largely by volunteers, supported by a small office and resource centre in Wellington. There are several hundred "Friends of ECO," individual subscribers who support our work.

“Friends of ECO” was an initiative of a former Chair, Ian Prior, in the late 1970s to assist ECO in its work.

ECO membership has been broader than environmental groups and includes groups with a concern for the environment and conservation.

Our membership includes large international groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, national groups including National Council of Women, as well as local groups such as Friends of Golden Bay and Save the Otago Peninsula, and issue oriented groups like the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust.


ECO has been centrally involved in campaigns to protect native forests, lakes and rivers, the reform of the Mining Act and defeat of the National Development Act, and in supporting the Resource Management Act and the establishment of the Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment. ECO continues to be at the forefront of environmental campaigns on fisheries, transport and environmental management.

ECO was part of the Joint Campaign on Native Forests along with the Forest and Bird, and Native Forest Action Council.  This Campaign which lasted until the late 1980s campaign for protection and better management of indigenous forests and in opposition to the 1970s beech schemes.

ECO was later part of the campaign that saw the end to indigenous logging on West Coast crown land in the 2002 and transfer of this land to the Department of Conservation.

ECO was part of the campaign that saw the end of multiple use government land management agencies, the New Zealand Forest Service and the Department of Lands and Survey, in 1986-87.  This saw the establishment of the Ministry for the Environment and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in 1986 and the Department of Conservation in 1987.

From the last 1970s till the mid-1980s ECO was engaged in the critique of the then National Government's "Think Big" projects which involved a range of energy projects, some using Maui Gas, others using predicted hydro electricity surpluses.  ECO was part of the campaign that led to the repealing of the National Development Act which had facilitated many of these projects.

ECO has had a long interest in mining issues.  In the 1980s ECO produced Mining Monitor (editor Cath Wallace) to report on mining applications around the country.  This included working to give landowners incuding protected area managers the ability to say no to mining.

The establishment of the Resource Management Act was a key part of ECO advocacy from 1988 to 1991.  ECO made many submissions on the policy and late the Bill as it was dealt with by two different Governments.  This included the passing of the Crown Minerals Act which was originally part of the Act.

ECO has followed changes to the legislation and later in the 1990s became part of the Action on Resource Management and groups with concerns over changes to the legislation.  ECO has run workshop on the RMA and it implementation.

ECO has promoted protection of Conservation land from minig.  The passing of amendments to the Crown Minerals Act (schedule 4) in 1997 was a major step forward.

Since the mid-1980s ECO has had a concern on marine issues.  This included fisheries management, marine mammals and marine reserves.

ECO has promoted the development of a oceans policy for New Zealand.  In 1998 ECO organised a focused marine management conferences, Seaviews.

Conferences and resources

ECO has run annual conferences on a range of issues (see the conference pages) since it was established.  Up until the late 1980s the conferences were mainly held in Wellington.  A notable exception was the 1985 conference at the Owae Marae in Waitara.  This was the first ECO Conference held on a marae.  This conference grew out of ECOs involvement in the opposition to the "Think Big" projects.

ECO has also run special conferences including the 1988 Seaviews Conference on marine management.

ECO developed a website to assist groups and individuals on marine issues in 2008 - SeaNet.  This is being incorporated into the ECO Website.

ECO has produced a website designed to assist groups on the Resource Management Act in - RMALink.

ECO has produced a Newsletter for members and friends.  Originally the newsletter was 10 times a year but with electronic communication this was reduced to four times a year for the ECOLink publication.

ECO has produced a weekly email publication Tieke since 2014

In addition to the Mining Monitor publication, ECO produced EnergyWatch with editor Molly Melhuish during the 1970s and 1980s.

ECO has built up a library of environmental resources which is available for members, friends and student to review.

International Participation

As well as working within New Zealand ECO maintains links with international networks.

ECO became a member of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in the early 1980s.  ECO has also maintained links with  including the Environment Liaison Center International (ELCI), Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, and Climate Action Network (CAN).

ECO has actively pursued Antarctic conservation since 1982 when we became the coordinating focal point for the New Zealand branch of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, ASOC.  ECO was a key part of the international campaign which led to a decision by Governments not to pursue an Antarctic minerals regime in 1988 and instead develop the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991.

Since then ECO has had an ongoing engagement on Antarctic issues and is part of the Antarctic Oceans Alliance campaign to establish a network of large marine reserves around Antarctica.  More information on ECOs involvement is on the Antarctic pages.



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