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Although the New Zealand market remains slow, Christchurch’s rebuild has boosted construction, and some lawyers predict mass migration into the country to satisfy future labour demand. Traditional transactional work is still thin, with private equity and capital markets fighting to plug the gap. In the aftermath of Shanghai Pengxin’s controversial Crafar Farms purchase, Asian investors are increasingly being drawn to the country, and particularly its world-leading agricultural industry. As trade with China and the rest of Asia rises, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts and DLA Phillips Fox are benefitting from their strong links to the market. National firms are increasingly focusing their energies on building up international capabilities.
New Zealand’s natural resources are drawing further interest from offshore energy companies, and the fracking debate is in full force ahead of the Commissioner for the Environment’s final report, due in late 2013. Insurance claims are still at an unprecedented high following the 2011 earthquakes, and PPP activity continues, though its future is uncertain until next year’s elections.
Bell Gully, Russell McVeagh and Chapman Tripp remain dominant across the board. Simpson Grierson excels in the commercial sphere and is a market leader in IP and employment. Transactional specialist Mayne Wetherell is still widely viewed as having one of the nation’s top finance practices.
‘Thepower boutique’ remains a distinctive feature of the New Zealand market, with firms such as Harmos Horton Lusk and Gilbert Walker continuing to operate at the level of top-tier, full-service competitors. Projects specialist Greenwood Roche Chisnall has had a landmark year, with impressive lateral hires and the opening of Auckland and Christchurch offices. Thompson Blackie Biddles (led by top property lawyer Greg Thompson) is firmly on the map after opening in 2012.