A tireless protector of Antarctica’s fragile ecosystem, she advocated the ratification of the Antarctic Environmental Protocol.
Cath Wallace has been active in various environmental issues both in New Zealand and internationally. Since 1987 Wallace has been a lecturer at Victoria University in economics and public policy, focusing primarily on the environment. For over a decade, Wallace chaired Environment and Conservation Organizations of New Zealand (ECO), an alliance of non-governmental organizations concerned about the environment. She remains active as an executive member of ECO. She served two terms on the Council of IUCN, the World Conservation Union. In these positions, she pushed to incorporate environmental costs into national decision making and has advocated reforms in environmental and energy policies.
In the late 1990's, Wallace and other activists led a resistance movement against a vigorous campaign by business interests to curtail the national Resource Management Act, a piece of legislation that provided important protection for natural resources. With ECO and others, Wallace endevored to change the national fisheries law to shift its focus from managing fish harvest to managing the entire ecosystem. She also collaborated with a range of groups in the non-partisan "Vote for the Environment" campaign to develop and promote a charter of environmental policies to all political parties involved in each of New Zealand's general elections.
Wallace was co-founder and convener of the New Zealand arm of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), an international alliance of more than 200 organizations from 40 nations that worked on the comprehensive protection of Antarctica and repudiation of the Antarctic Minerals Convention. With ASOC she monitored the Antarctic Treaty meetings and lobbied internationally for a ban on mining in Antarctica. In 1991 Wallace celebrated a major step on road to the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment with the entry into effect of the Antarctic Environmental Protocol. Also known as the Madrid Protocol, it designates Antarctica as "a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science," establishes rules for the protection of the environment and bans mining.
Wallace also campaigned for an ecosystem-focused regime of management of human impacts on the marine environment. She researched the effects of New Zealand's fishery quota management system and pressed the Ministry of Fisheries to stop violating its environmental responsibilities under the New Zealand Fisheries Act of 1996. Wallce continues to advocate for the implementation of strong local enviornmental policies throughout New Zealand.
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