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Editorial

Overview

Economic growth in New Zealand continued strongly in comparison to many other developed countries during 2016 and into 2017, not least because of the recovery in global dairy prices. The country is among the world’s top five dairy exporters and its agricultural, horticultural, forestry, mining and fishing industries constitute a significant proportion of its GDP, though other sectors such as hi-tech, tourism and film production are also important.

The healthy economic climate has meant that the M&A market is relatively busy, though there remain few IPOs in the market. Inbound investment flows, notably from China, are stimulating M&A and property transactions, while the government is also investing heavily in infrastructure development. With the population growing and immigration – seen as a positive boost to the economy – rising to record levels, transport projects (particularly roads) and housing development are high priorities.

The impact of new legislation has kept lawyers busy. The Financial Markets Conduct Act has significant implications for banks, investment firms and corporates, while health and safety regulation and Holidays Act matters are generating significant work for employment teams. In the insurance, real estate and construction sectors, the effect of the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 is still giving rise to many matters, with disputes and construction projects arising in Christchurch. The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, which hit the South Island, is also generating similar work.

Among the country’s full service firms, Bell Gully, Chapman Tripp and Russell McVeagh have long been referred to as the Big Three, but increasingly people talk of the Big Six, which also includes Simpson Grierson, MinterEllisonRuddWatts and Buddle Findlay. The only firm that is part of a global network is DLA Piper New Zealand, which has a strong presence in cross-border matters.

New Zealand is also home to many specialist boutique firms such as SBM Legal, Dundas Street and Kiely Thompson Caisley in the employment market; Wotton + Kearney and Fee Langstone in the insurance market; AJ Park and Baldwins in intellectual property; and Gilbert Walker, LeeSalmonLong and Wilson Harle in dispute resolution.

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