Founding ECO executive member Robert (Bob) Fantl has died in Wellington, aged 92. He brought the New Zealand Institute of Architects to the ECO table and worked closely with Dr Ian Prior, noted public health specialist, and Sir Alan Randall, heart specialist, and others who shared his passion for the environment and mountains.
Bob was a Holocaust survivor from the Kindertransport, and lost almost all of his family in the Holocaust. He arrived in New Zealand in 1940 and with his sister made a new life here, raising a family in Wadestown, Wellington. Bob was amongst those who founded the Wellington Architectural Centre in 1946, a year when an independent New Zealand culture established a firmer footing, of which the Centre was a vital part. He maintained close friends in and beyond the Wellington Jewish diaspora and was part of the European cultural influx that came with that.
Bob was a co-founder of ECO – then known as CoEnCo – in 1971, and served on its Executive until 1992. He was Chair or Vice-chair in 1985-86. With his professional office across the corridor from the ECO office, his kindly and willing presence was always there for ECO. His primary interests were in establishing protected areas, protection of nature from threats, and in urban and domestic architecture and design. He was a dedicated environmentalists, skier and tramper.
In his time on the ECO executive he pushed to retain Wellington’s natural and urban heritage, including opposition to the motorway cutting through the Bolton St cemetery. He led the successful effort to establish the Environmentalist Memorial Garden at Bolton Street cemetery in Wellington, now maintained by Wellington City Council.
ECO people knew him as a kindly, calm and deeply caring and supportive person who strove to protect the environment and to maintain cultural values in the face of Think Big and other manifestations of Philistinism. ECO’s executive sends its love and deep sympathy to Bob’s family and wide circle of friends. Bob will be remembered as a tireless champion for the environment and for conservation.
- written by Michael Pringle and Cath Wallace