Our History

ESR was established at an inaugural meeting in Wellington on 14 June 1983 chaired by Gerald Coates. Articles by Gerry Coates, "Nuclear War and the Loud Silence" published in New Zealand Engineering in June 1983 and The Responsibility of Engineers published in September 1983 inspired a following of professional engineers throughout the country who became the first members of ESR.

At this time there was growing concern from many professionals about the insanity of nuclear war. In Auckland Professional Engineers for the Prevention of Nuclear War (PEFPNW) had been formed along with Scientists Against Nuclear Arms (SANA), and International Physicians for the prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and many other professional groups were active.

In Auckland, it was decided on 4th August 1983 to amalgamate the membership of Professional Engineers for the Prevention of Nuclear War with ESR. The first Committee was John Chapple, Dr Roderick Agnew, Professor Jack Woodward, Dr Richard Fenwick, Phil LeGros, Graham Dickson and John La Roche with the first Auckland Annual General Meeting being held on 22 March 1984 at Auckland University, School of Engineering when Professor Alan Titchener was elected Chairman.

The first ESR Annual Conference and National Annual General meeting was held prior to the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) Conference in Hastings on Saturday 12 February 1984. Gerald Coates was elected National Secretary, and Eddie Goldberg Treasurer. At this time there were 108 members of ESR. The office of President was left vacant until Gerald Coates was elected to the position in 1986. From the start of ESR until 1988 he produced regular newsletters, and established a membership database, and there was a strong Wellington Committee which assisted in running meetings on a regular basis.

The National Executive transferred to Auckland in 1988 when Professor Alan Titchener was elected National President. Professor Jack Woodward, Dr John Peet and Rob Wilkinson have followed as National Presidents. Professor Alan Titchener was Editor of Auckland Newsletters from the time ESR was established. In 1988 it was decided that Auckland would produce the National newsletter and Alan became Editor. Neil Mander and then Ross Rutherford continued Gerry and Alan’s tradition of providing ethical inspiration and timely comment on ESR’s meetings and other activities throughout the country.

In the early days of ESR, some uninformed IPENZ members expressed their concerns,

“That ESR is an activist group associating with non-engineers known to incite treason. They are getting a lot of attention/publicity in the Auckland Branch Bulletin and more particularly New Zealand Engineering.”

“As activists they could easily take over branch committees and eventually Council, getting controversial policy matters passed. This would undoubtedly have the effect of splitting the Institution.”

A senior IPENZ member referred to ESR as “the lunatic fringe” at an AGM in 1984. The balance of senior and respected members of the profession, and our generally temperate comments however won out, and it was pleasing for ESR to be referred to by IPENZ President Alec Stirrat in his annual address as the “conscience of IPENZ”.

ESR is now seen as an important contributor to IPENZ on many issues, particularly ethical and environmental principles. Many IPENZ presidents have been members of ESR and it became normal for many IPENZ Board members to attend ESR Conferences prior to the main IPENZ Conference. Although there have been suggestions from time to time that ESR should become a Technical Group of IPENZ we have always considered it is important to maintain our independence by being quite a separate organisation.

Nuclear Fact Sheets

In association with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and Scientists Against Nuclear Arms (SANA), ESR under the Chairmanship of Professor Jack Woodward prepared a series of 17 fact sheets. These sheets were designed to describe in a concise manner important facts from scientific and medical literature about the dangers of nuclear war in a way which could be easily understood by non-technical people. With a generous grant from IPPNW the fact sheets were distributed to secondary schools, and libraries in the Auckland area, members of parliament and other decision makers throughout New Zealand, and to certain embassies and South Pacific heads of state. Users were encouraged to copy and redistribute the sheets. The sheets receive much commendation.

Each fact sheet was carefully scrutinised by a panel for its appeal and factual accuracy before publication. The first sheet was produced in April 1984 and they continued at about monthly intervals until December 1985. All sheets were later combined into a bound volume entitled "Nuclear Issues Fact Sheets" which sold at $5.00 and was again widely distributed and acknowledged.

A subsequent series of opinion sheets entitled "Peace Issues in a Nuclear Age" described a range of subjects including United Nations Year of Peace 1986, ANZUS, Psychic Numbing, NZ’s Nuclear Free Stance, Nuclear Insurance, Nuclear Ships, and Antarctica. These sheets were supported by Architects Against Nuclear Arms, ESR, IPPNW, NZ Lawyers for Nuclear Disarmament, Pharmacists against Nuclear Arms, Psychologists for the Prevention of Nuclear War, SANA and Visual Artists Against Nuclear Arms.

Unemployed Immigrant Engineers

Since 1999 when there were many immigrant engineers unable to find work, Engineers for Social Responsibility has been concerned for these members of our profession who have chosen New Zealand as a place to live. Unemployment among professional engineers is a huge waste of valuable skills. It is devastating for many immigrants who have been used to hard work and providing for their families to be dependent on state handouts.

Between 2000 and 2003 a series of training courses in association with IPENZ to assist immigrant engineers was organised. In August 2003, the IPENZ Special Interest Group for Immigrant Engineers (SIGIE) was formed with a committee comprising of mainly immigrant engineers. SIGIE has organised regular meetings where immigrant engineers can meet and hear from others who have been successful in finding employment but main function is to help advise immigrant engineers on C.V. preparation, the need for English skills and where to seek employment. ESR continues to assist in this. Committee contact details can be obtained from the Engineering NZ website.

National Waste Minimisation Strategy

In July 2000, a working group was established by the Ministry for the Environment and Local Government New Zealand to give advice on the establishment of a national waste minimisation strategy for New Zealand. The draft report of the working group titled Towards a National Waste Minimisation Strategy was released for public comment on 7 December 2000, with submissions being due by March 1, 2001. As well as general comments on the draft Strategy, this report sought specific feedback on 11 issues and questions.

In response to the draft strategy and invitiation for comment, ESR prepared a submission that strongly supports the formulation of a national waste minimisation strategy for New Zealand. In our submission, general comments on the strategy and its visions/goals were made, followed by feedback on the specific issues and questions contained in the Strategy. Numerous examples are given to illustrate the various points raised in the ESR submission.

Further information about Waste Minimisation can be found at the Zero Waste New Zealand website.