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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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  • Consultation announced on a proposed Medicinal Cannabis Scheme

    ‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčThe Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced it is consulting on a proposed Medicinal Cannabis Scheme.
  • Supreme Court rules that insurance reinstatement rights cannot be assigned

    ‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčThe Supreme Court in Xu v IAG New Zealand Ltd has ruled by a 3:2 majority that, under an IAG house insurance policy, homeowners cannot assign their right to reinstate to a subsequent purchaser of the house. Homeowners must undertake the reinstatement themselves, and if they do not, the right to claim the cost of reinstatement under the insurance policy is lost.
  • The Zero Carbon Bill - a closer look

    ‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčThe long-awaited "Zero Carbon Bill" was finally released¬†on 9 May, but despite being greeted by considerable media interest there are a number of significant issues that have yet to come to the fore.
  • A link tax in New Zealand?

    ‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčA controversial payment to publishers for content in Europe has implications for New Zealand ‚Äď despite escaping mention in a recent paper that set out the key issues for review for our own copyright laws.
  • News media exemption under the Privacy Act: now a matter of "responsibility"?

    The role of the news media as the "eyes and ears" of the public, and the corresponding right of such news media to be exempted from the Privacy Act 1993 ( Privacy Act ), is entrenched and well accepted. However, the extent to which the news media exemption applies to non-traditional forms of "news" published by "civilian journalists", such as online commentary and blogs, is a hotly debated subject.
  • Derivatives Margin Bill a step closer to becoming law

    ‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčIn an article in February this year, we reported on the introduction into Parliament of the Financial Markets (Derivatives Margin and Benchmarking) Reform Amendment Bill (the Bill ).¬†
  • Climate-related risk highlighted in Reserve Bank Act review

    The role of the Reserve Bank in assessing and responding to the risks climate change poses to financial stability features in the current consultation on New Zealand's financial policy framework. Inclusion of climate change as part of the wide-ranging review of the Reserve Bank Act is further evidence of the growing trend towards climate-related risk reporting and disclosures.
  • Taxation of the Digital Economy: update

    ‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčIn early June¬†the Government released a d‚Äčiscussion document on New Zealand's options for taxing the digital economy.¬†
  • Who reads online terms, and does it matter? Lessons from the US

    ‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč"Any internet user knows, website terms and conditions are burdensomely long. One rarely reads the fine print when they create a social media account, buy an e-book or movie, use a ridesharing service, or download a mobile app."
  • Mandatory reporting requirements soften in Privacy Bill

    The Privacy Bill began its second reading before parliament on Tuesday 18 June. The proposed legislation is set to reshape the privacy landscape and bring New Zealand in line with global trends.

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