Our purpose

The Environmental Defence Society is a dedicated team of professionals who are committed to improving environmental outcomes for Aotearoa New Zealand.

EDS seeks to protect and restore Aotearoa New Zealand’s outstanding landscapes, freshwater systems, oceans and indigenous biodiversity. We do this through holding business and government to account, strengthening the law when it is found wanting, and supporting good environmental management practice.

Meet the people who make it happen.

Our staff

Gary Taylor MA(Hons), CNZM, QSO

Chairman & Chief Executive

Gary provides overall leadership for EDS. He has extensive experience in corporate governance, having been the Chairman of the Auckland Area Health Board, the Climate Change and Business Centre and the Peoples Centre Health Trust. Gary has been involved in resolving environmental issues for over four decades.

Shay Schlaepfer LLB, BSc

Chief Operating Officer

Shay is a resource management lawyer with 20 years’ experience. She began her career as EDS’s first in house counsel before working in chambers and for Brookfields Lawyers in Auckland. Shay is now EDS’s Chief Operating Officer and runs EDS’s litigation programme and its government consultations. She has also recently completed in depth reports on reform of the Land Act 1948 and the Wildlife Act 1953. She is a current member of the High Country Advisory Group.

Raewyn Peart MCom, LLB, BCom, BSocSc, MNZM

Policy Director

Raewyn heads EDS's environmental policy work. She has over 30 years professional experience in environmental law and policy, having worked as a resource management lawyer and policy adviser to business, government and the not-for-profit sector. Raewyn has published widely on coastal, marine and other environmental issues.

Greg Severinsen PhD, LLB(Hons), BA

Reform Director

Greg provides the lead on EDS's environmental system reform projects. He has practised in resource management law at a major law firm and worked as a policy analyst at the Ministry for the Environment. Greg has published, presented and taught on a range of resource management and environmental law topics.

Deidre Koolen-Bourke PhD, LLM (Hons), LLB(Hons), BA/BSc

Senior Policy Researcher

Deidre is a lead researcher for EDS's policy projects. She was a teaching assistant for public law and legal method at Auckland University's Faculty of Law for over ten years, and worked at Child Youth and Family as part of its privacy and official information legal team. Deidre has published on indigenous rights, conservation and animal law.

Fernanda Contreras Caballero LLM (Hons) LLB

Legal & Policy Researcher

Fernanda undertakes research for EDS’s policy projects including on resource management and conservation reform. Previously, Fernanda ran her own legal firm in Mexico for small to medium size businesses. Her passion for the environment led her to study and graduate with a Masters degree in environmental law from the University of Auckland and she then worked as a Senior Compliance Officer at Auckland Council.

Fiona Driver

Events Director

Fiona leads EDS’s events programme. She is a professional conference and event organiser with over 25 years’ experience. Fiona has worked for EDS for over 15 years and is responsible for EDS’s two annual conferences – the environmental summit and the Climate Change and Business Conference which EDS organises in partnership with the Sustainable Business Council.

John Commissaris LLB/BAppSc

Legal Advisor

John is a graduate from the University of Otago where he studied law and applied science majoring in environmental management. He provides legal advice focusing on freshwater and biodiversity. John is also interested in climate change, oceans and fisheries management, and international law. John has studied internationally at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and previously worked as a wildland firefighter in Alberta, Canada.

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