Forest & Bird’s story: New Zealand’s story

The nature of tomorrow

Forest & Bird’s founder, Captain Val Sanderson, had a bold idea for a predator-free sanctuary on Kapiti Island - but for him, it was about New Zealand. 

“New Zealand’s prosperity means your prosperity. Should we all stand idly by?” Notes on the back of an envelope from Captain Val Sanderson, founder of Forest & Bird, in 1923.

“New Zealand’s prosperity means your prosperity. Should we all stand idly by?” Notes on the back of an envelope from Captain Val Sanderson, founder of Forest & Bird, in 1923.

New Zealanders have been environmental and social champions. Many hundreds of thousands of us said that we wanted native forests and Manapouri saved, and DOC established to look after them.

As a country we’ve stood proudly as a good global citizen, known for punching well above our weight - never more so than when we campaigned for a nuclear-free NZ, and an end to French testing in the South Pacific. 

The world applauds us for showing leadership and courage, and being on the right side of history - making the kind of choices that are needed again now, for a new energy future.


New Zealanders:

were the first in the world to give votes to women.

said no to nuclear weapons; we went to sea, in defiance of the US and France, to protest against them and make New Zealand and the Pacific nuclear-free.

said no to nuclear power: 333,087 signatures, for the Campaign Half Million. 

shunned apartheid, even when it got in the way of rugby.

defended Lake Manapouri (264,907 New Zealanders).

signed the Maruia Declaration, to save our native forests from being logged and burned (341,000 New Zealanders).

stood on top of the world (Sir Edmund Hillary); sailed around it and died fighting for it (Sir Peter Blake).

dreamed of islands on which our unique birds and wildlife would be safe and thrive (Forest & Bird founder Captain Val Sanderson - Kapiti Island, Richard Henry - who, on Resolution Island, tried to save the kakapo).

Forest & Bird was part of many of these campaigns, and we continue to defend these values. We think that they’re the foundations of our future; and now we’re working to defend and build on them.


In 2013 we’re campaigning to protect the foundations of our natural resource management laid down in the 1980s, including DOC and the RMA. The work done then had integrity, it is sound in principle, and we are deeply concerned at concerted efforts to undermine it. 

These were foundation stones laid in place with an overwhelming democratic mandate; they were a contract with New Zealanders, who had asked for them, in much the same way as the commitment more recently made, on keeping mining out of our national parks.

We’re closely watching the government’s policy of opening our public conservation land to mining and minerals permit tenders; and we’re still working to save our native forests, by backing the PCE’s call for more 1080 use, and campaigning for a predator-free New Zealand.

... And in the future

Read more from our ‘nature of tomorrow’ series in the Forest & Bird magazine :

We’re working on ideas for making New Zealand a living place, including:

A network of Marine Protected Areas, and robust regulation out in the Exclusive Economic Zone. In 2013 we published a review of ecological best practice for MPA networks - including a review of the science, and what’s worked overseas. Other work on mapping Marine Important Bird Areas will help understand priority areas for marine protection.

Campaigning for a predator-free New Zealand, in which possums, rodents and mustelids have been eliminated. 

A complete review and classification of the ‘stewardship land’ category, held in limbo by DOC since 1987. 

Green economy initiatives, including supporting good work done by ENGO colleagues WWF and Greenpeace, investigating fossil fuel subsidies in NZ, and economic modelling for a 100% renewable energy future, with four times more jobs.

Understanding how we can farm and fish profitably, within environmental bottom lines - including MPA network design for fisheries benefits.

Responding to increasing calls to value nature, by trying to put an economic price on ecosystems. According to economists Geoff Bertram and Simon Terry, what valuing nature really means is understanding that market have some limits

Continuing to build good legal frameworks and foundations - strengthening them, not taking them apart - including recognition in our Bill of Rights of a clean healthy environment as a fundamental human right.

Thinking about good conservation governance structures - including the Waitangi Tribunal’s WAI262 report on ways of giving effect to kaitiakitanga.

The Wise Response initiative, led and co-ordinated by Forest & Bird Ambassador Sir Alan Mark, calling for a National Risk Assessment and response to five economic, environmental and social risks too big to ignore.