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At Bell Gully, ‘the overall level of service is excellent and the team is prompt and clear in its advice’. ‘Strategically brilliant’ Auckland-based deputy team head Simon Ladd and ‘exceptionally hardworking’ senior associate Rebecca Rose ‘plan and execute arguments beautifully’. Also recommended are experienced partners Ian Gault and Alan Ringwood, and newly promoted Tim Fitzgerald. Highly respected team head Jenny Stevens in Wellington defended ANZ Bank New Zealand in a case brought by plaintiffs representing 17,000 customers seeking to recover exception fees paid on credit cards and deposit accounts. The firm also successfully represented Southern Response in opposing an application by a group of insureds seeking High Court approval for a class action relating to the Christchurch earthquakes. Another highlight saw the team represent Kawarau Village Holdings Limited in breach of contract disputes relating to the Kawarau Falls Station development in Queenstown. The firm’s clients also include Air New Zealand, Danone and PwC.

Chapman Tripp is ‘excellent across the board – professional, responsive and insightful’. One client sees the firm as ‘one of our most trusted advisers on matters ranging from small, thorny issues to multibillion-dollar projects’. In Auckland, the ‘exceptionally user-friendlyJohn McKayhas an eminent reputation in commercial litigation’. Matt Sumpterhas an excellent skill set and a superb grasp of the law’. He is acting for the Motion Picture Association of America in high-value litigation against internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, in which he recently secured worldwide asset freezing injunctions as part of a case pending in the US District Court of Virginia. In Wellington, Daniel Kalderimis, Tim Smith and Bruce Scott are greatly respected litigators. The firm also handled significant matters for the Earthquake Commission and Fonterra Co-operative Group.

Russell McVeagh is ‘excellent in every respect, a “go-to” firm for significant litigation with market-leading capability’. National litigation chair Matthew Kersey leads an eight-partner team in which the ‘extremely capable, easy-to-deal-with and commercially astute’ Sarah Armstrong is a leading light. She acted for electricity company Trustpower in court proceedings arising from its demerger. Chris Curran handled a significant case for Spark New Zealand, Andrew Butler handled a major class action in the financial services sector, and Malcolm Crotty advised Radius Properties on a scheme of arrangement matter. Another highlight for Curran saw him act for Credit Suisse as issuer and promoter of the Feltex Limited IPO, which is the subject of a NZ$200m class action alleging that the IPO prospectus was misleading. Consultant Joe Edwards is ‘top notch at giving practical advice’. Polly Pope is recommended for her arbitration work and is now on the appointments panel of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand.

At Simpson Grierson, ‘the service is always of a high standard and the advice is prompt and practical’. Head of litigation Jania Baigent acted for National Storage in High Court proceedings in which a competitor sought an injunction against its entry into the Auckland market. Anne Callinan advised private equity firm Archer Capital in proceedings brought by the Financial Markets Authority concerning the attempted takeover of Abano Healthcare. Special counsel William Akel and senior associate Sarah Fairbrother, who ‘does excellent work on disputes’, are recommended. Wellington team head John Shackleton is ‘a very good and very responsive practitioner’. His highlights included acting for Chatham Rock Phosphate in a High Court dispute arising from its application for marine consent for mining operations under the Exclusive Economic Zone Act. The case represented the first instance in which the courts had considered costs provisions under the Act, and the matter is now proceeding to judicial review. New hire from the Crown Law Office Sally McKechnie, who leads the firm’s government and public law practice from Wellington, is currently acting in a NZ$400m class action trial in the High Court.

Anthony Harper continued to grow its dispute resolution team, which is led by Christchurch-based Peter Woods. The firm is recognised for its strong track record in complex cases, including contractual disputes, breach of trust and fiduciary duty claims, governance disputes and urgent interlocutory relief applications. The addition of Katherine Anderson, formerly director of legal and risk at Auckland Council and a current member of the Human Rights Review Tribunal, to the Auckland team gives the firm significant weight in public law matters. Her arrival also brought new clients Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to the firm. Karen Kemp, who acts for homeowners’ organisation HOBANZ, and Dan Hughes are also recommended, as is Richard Smedley in Christchurch. Woods is acting for EQC Action Group in a High Court action against the Earthquake Commission concerning statutory standards for building repair. Hughes assisted First Credit Union lodge with a complaint challenging the NZ Association of Credit Unions’ rules.

Buddle Findlay is ‘one of the best around’, according to one client, who remarks that ‘the lawyers listen to their clients’. Graeme Hall in Auckland leads the litigation team, which also includes ‘top-quality litigatorLaura O’Gorman and Wellington-based Sebastian Bisley, who is ‘pleasant to deal with and very approachable’. Willie Palmer in Christchurch is also recommended. The team successfully defended administrators of Solid Energy in a dispute brought by trading house Cargill that raised important issues about provisions in the Companies Act concerning unfair prejudice, excluding and limiting liability, and related party voting. Another highlight saw the firm advise Infratil Infrastructure Property Limited on the successful defence of a claim brought by landowner Viaduct Harbour Holdings. The firm counts Bank of New Zealand, Auckland Council, ANZ Bank, PwC and Zespri Group among its clients.

DLA Piper New Zealand has a strong track record in litigation, including Supreme Court proceedings, and also acts for corporate clients in arbitration and mediation and before specialist regulatory tribunals. Iain Thain in Auckland is ‘one of the best litigators around’, according to one client. He focuses on competition and insurance issues alongside a broad spectrum of commercial litigation. A recent highlight saw him act for supermarket and grocery store chains Foodstuffs South Island and Foodstuffs North Island in appeals against elements of new legislation governing the sale of alcohol. He also advised SPX Flow Technology concerning payments to Gas 1 Limited for a processing plant for the manufacture of infant formula. Adam Holloway in Wellington, whose practice encompasses public law and litigation, acted for Wellington City Council in an appeal against an application for judicial review of proposed changes to parking policy.

For high-value commercial litigation ‘the small team can provide very personalised and senior service’, say clients of litigation and arbitration boutique Gilbert Walker. Martin Smith is ‘cool, meticulous and well considered in every situation’. He advised Tower Insurance Ltd on the defence of High Court proceedings brought by policyholders. Iva Rosic, ‘excellent advocate’ Matthew Harris, and associates Alexander Ho (who is ‘very capable and pleasant to deal with’) and Sam McMullan (‘new to the team but already able to manage complex litigation’) are also names to note. In a three-day Court of Appeal hearing, Rosic successfully represented a beneficiary in proceedings to remove trustees from NZ$500m trusts established by the late Hugh Green. She acted as part of the defence team for Mark Warminger in a high-profile case, the first of its kind in New Zealand, brought by the Financial Markets Authority alleging market manipulation.

Commercial litigation boutique LeeSalmonLong is ‘a high-performance law firm that listens well and asks the right questions’. Davey Salmon, whose broad practice includes large-scale commercial litigation and public law matters, is ‘a highly competent advocate – one of the best who has not joined the independent bar – skilled, highly intelligent, articulate and with excellent judgement’. Partners Isaac Hikaka, Tim Mullins and Michael Heard are also recommended in ‘a formidable team’. Salmon and Heard are representing more than 200 plaintiffs in Strathboss v Attorney-General, in which kiwifruit growers are seeking to recoup NZ$376m in losses from the Ministry of Primary Industries. Further highlights included advising a shareholder in Duco Events on a multi-jurisdictional minority oppression dispute, and representing the Democratic Party of the Cook Islands in a claim involving the improper shutting down of parliament. The firm’s impressive list of domestic and international clients includes BMW, Visa, Coca-Cola and Carter Holt Harvey.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ team, which includes nine commercial litigation partners and two specialist construction partners, is led by Sean Gollin in Auckland. Experienced trial lawyer Zane Kennedy acted for 2degrees Mobile in seeking urgent interim relief for a challenge to the merger of Sky Network Television and Vodafone New Zealand. Andrew Horne continued to advise the Financial Markets Authority on a precedent-setting case arising from alleged breaches of substantial security-holder disclosure obligations under Part 2 of the Securities Act by an Australian private equity firm. Clients recommend experienced litigator Richard Gordon, who acted for Bathurst Resources in a NZ$40m case relating to performance payments allegedly due to L&M Coal Holdings; veteran Mark Sandelin; and, in Wellington, Oliver Meech and ‘top-quality litigator’ Stacey Shortall. Trustpower and Aon New Zealand are also among the firm’s clients.

Wilson Harle in Auckland is a litigation boutique founded 15 years ago and maintains a lean team of experienced practitioners focused on high-value and high-stakes commercial disputes. Partners Ian Denton, Chris Browne and Allison Ferguson jointly lead the team, in which Felicity Monteiro was recently promoted to partner. Among the firm’s highlights in 2016 was its work for Belmont Lifestyle Village Ltd and Wayne Wallace, in which Denton was called upon at short notice to argue two matters in the Court of Appeal arising from a long-running NZ$9m contractual dispute between two former property developers. The case also involved a High Court matter relating to allegations of abuse of the court process. Browne’s caseload included acting for Canterbury District Health Board in successful test case appeals to the High Court and the Court of Appeal concerning the interpretation of licensing issues affecting supermarkets and grocery stores.

K3 Legal in Auckland is ‘a boutique firm that gets high-level litigation work’. ‘I admire their innovation and energy, they think outside the square and achieve fantastic results’, says one barrister. The ‘courageous and clever’ Brent O’Callahan has ‘an understanding of both commerce and the law that is a great strength in dealing with complex matters’. He advised Auckland Council on a dispute concerning the designation of land owned by Man O’War Station on Waiheke Island as an outstanding natural landscape. James Nolen, who joined from Lowndes – Corporate & Commercial Law Specialists, ‘has excellent judgement and is hardworking’. His caseload included acting for Cargill International as creditor to New Zealand’s largest coal mining company Solid Energy in a High Court challenge to a deed of company arrangement, in which he obtained a favourable settlement for the client. At his former firm, he also acted for Mike Pero Mortgages Limited in a complex breach of shareholders agreement case.

Kensington Swan’s broad litigation practice covers corporate, civil, construction and infrastructure, employment, IP, insurance and Maori treaty settlement disputes. Practice head David Campbell in Auckland focuses on civil and commercial litigation and he recently acted for a leading international healthcare company in claims arising from alleged failures in its products. Hayden Wilson in Wellington advises many clients on public sector disputes. He acted for Serco Asia Pacific in High Court proceedings following allegations by the chief executive of the Department of Corrections of organised fights at the Mt Eden Corrections Facility. He helped to manage the internal inquiry, the response to the official investigation, the judicial review and other matters relating to the company’s 25-year, NZ$300m contract to run two private prisons.

Lowndes – Corporate & Commercial Law Specialists in Auckland is ‘a boutique firm with a strong litigation practice that rates very highly’. Partners Jacqueline Lethbridge (who is ‘hardworking and determined – she fights hard for her clients’) and veteran litigator Michael McCarthy are the firm’s key practitioners. Lethbridge advised SkyCity Entertainment in a high-profile fraud case, which involved obtaining immediate freezing orders against a key executive. The firm recently acted for an Australian company in a NZ$35m dispute arising from a loan to a New Zealand limited partnership, and represented a mortgage and real estate joint venture partner is a dispute over governance matters.

Clients report ‘superb advice’ from Wynn Williams, where ‘the response times are excellent and the advice is always on point and can be trusted’. ‘His counsel is wise’, say clients of Christchurch-based head of dispute resolution Jeremy Johnson, who is ‘in a league of his own, excellent to deal with; clients trust his impressive legal knowledge’. He advised Church Property Trustees on negotiations with the Crown concerning ChristChurch Cathedral. He also represented an investor in Mako Holdings Limited in a High Court action to recover NZ$4m provided to the company in the form of unsecured loans, which centres on allegations of breach of directors’ duties and reckless trading. Joshua Shaw (who is ‘strong on litigation strategy, advocacy and professional judgement’) and Jared Ormsby are among the recommended partners. Ormsby advised trustees on a dispute over the sale of iconic property Mt Cook Station, which faces strong public opposition.

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Legal Developments in New Zealand

Legal Developments and updates from the leading lawyers in each jurisdiction. To contribute, send an email request to
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