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Editorial

New Zealand experienced solid growth in 2017 and early 2018, beating the average of other OECD members. The dairy industry is key to the country's economic performance, so the recent slump in global dairy prices is a cause for concern, but although the agricultural, horticultural, forestry, mining and fishing industries are still key pillars of the economy, the country continues to diversify into areas such as tourism and hi-tech.

The country is expecting a slowdown in immigration, which was a key issue in the general election in late 2017. The centre-right National Party that had been in power since 2008 was replaced by a coalition led by Labour, making Jacinda Ardern the new prime minister. Under the new regime, changes in policy are likely to affect key areas such as overseas investment rules and infrastructure development. PPPs are expected to be replaced by an alternate funding structure for major projects, which have shifted in focus away from road construction towards rail, and the Overseas Investment Office, which is responsible for regulating foreign direct investment, has tightened rules on the foreign ownership of real estate.

For law firms, there is much to work on, including issues that arise from regulatory changes the new government is formulating. The healthy economy has meant there have been relatively few insolvencies, though some large corporate collapses, notably in the insurance and construction sectors, have drawn in many firms with specialist practices. Insurance is another key source of work, with ongoing matters from the Canterbury earthquakes and the South Island's more recent Kaikoura earthquakes generating a large volume of disputes.

A key trend in the legal market going forward will be ethical standards, following allegations made about the culture and conduct of male lawyers at one of the country's largest firms.

New Zealand has a strong cadre of full-service law firms, notably Bell Gully, Buddle Findlay, Chapman Tripp, MinterEllisonRuddWatts, Russell McVeagh and Simpson Grierson, and international behemoth DLA Piper New Zealand also has two local offices. Competition in key practice areas is fierce, however, as firms such as Kensington Swan, Anderson Lloyd and Anthony Harper gain key panel appointments and build their rosters of blue-chip clients.

Boutique firms also play a vital role in many practice areas, such as corporate and commercial (Harmos Horton Lusk Limited), dispute resolution (LeeSalmonLong and Gilbert Walker), insurance (Fee Langstone and Robertsons), employment (SBM Legal, Dundas Street and Kiely Thompson Caisley) and IP (AJ Park).

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Legal Developments in New Zealand

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  • The Tax Working Group’s Interim Report - A capital gains tax for New Zealand?

    ​​​​​​The Tax Working Group has released its Interim Report on the Future of Tax. Amongst a number of other matters, the Interim Report describes two alternative methods for the implementation of a capital gains tax in New Zealand, which will be the subject of further consideration over the coming months. 
  • Privilege in regulatory investigations: UK Court of Appeal supports a broad approach

    Last week, the UK Court of Appeal released its much-anticipated judgment in ENRC v SFO[1], a decision with significant implications for the scope of legal professional privilege in the context of regulatory investigations.
  • Overseas Investment - review announced just as new regime comes into force

    Just days before amendments to New Zealand’s overseas investment regime take effect, the government has announced its intention to undertake a further review of the legislation.
  • New NZX Listing Rules in force from 1 January 2019

    NZX today published the final version of its updated listing rules. These new rules will take effect on 1 January 2019, subject to a six-month transition period.
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership trade benefits are coming

    Following several years of negotiations, and after the high-profile collapse of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership ( TPP ) in 2017, the renamed “Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership” ( CPTPP ) has now met the required number of ratifications to come into force. This is due to occur on 30 December 2018. This will offer New Zealand businesses a range of opportunities they should plan for, including reduced tariffs on a number of key exports.​
  • CPTPP Agreement sparks further legislative change

    The Government has introduced further amendments to the Overseas Investment Regulations 2005 (the Regulations ) to ensure New Zealand complies with its obligations under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (the CPTPP Agreement ) and various other international agreements New Zealand is a party to.
  • What is the latest in privacy law reform?

    The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill (the Bill) was passed yesterday after its third and final reading. It is likely to receive Royal assent this month. Once that occurs, the provisions of the Bill that limit the ability of overseas persons to purchase residential property in New Zealand and the changes in the regime governing overseas investments in forestry will officially become part of the Overseas Investment Act (the Act).
  • Residential land amendments mark new era in New Zealand’s overseas investment regime

    ​​​​​​The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill (the Bill) was passed yesterday after its third and final reading. It is likely to receive Royal assent this month. Once that occurs, the provisions of the Bill that limit the ability of overseas persons to purchase residential property in New Zealand and the changes in the regime governing overseas investments in forestry will officially become part of the Overseas Investment Act (the Act).
  • A fresh look at the recoverability of takeover expenses

    The High Court has revisited the recoverability of a target company's expenses for the first time in more than 45 years. The case has important implications for future reimbursement disputes.
  • Insurance contract law reform back on the agenda for 2018

    The Government announced on 6 March that it is undertaking a review of New Zealand's insurance contract law, and has released a terms of reference for the review here ​​.

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