my practice

I have a very broad practice, spanning commercial, regulatory and public law. This versatility and mix of experience helps bring a fresh perspective to each case.

Recent highlights include a high profile tax avoidance trial, a lengthy contested public hearing before the Gambling Commission, judicial review in contexts ranging from racing club governance to refugee law, and the successful resolution of proceedings involving allegations of knowing receipt and unjust enrichment. I was also lead counsel in the Erceg case, where the Supreme Court ruled on the disclosure of trust information to discretionary beneficiaries.

I have a personal interest in animal welfare, and acted pro bono for the applicants in a recent landmark case challenging the use of farrowing crates in the factory farming of pigs.

The common thread of this mishmash of cases is advocacy – trial and appellate, oral and written.

“a strong, fearless advocate who impresses with her total mastery of the facts,
no matter how complex”
Chambers Asia-Pacific 2019

Public law and judicial review

This is a major specialty, and is an area of the law in which I have a keen interest. I represent both applicants and respondents in judicial review proceedings, in any context. I have acted in a diverse range of cases (with a high success rate), including, for example:

  • acting for a thoroughbred racing club in defending a wide-ranging challenge to the governance of the club;
  • acting pro bono for two animal welfare organisations in challenging the validity of regulations and minimum standards that permitted the use of farrowing crates in factory pig farming;
  • appointed as counsel assisting the court, in the High Court and Court of Appeal, in a case involving a decision on refugee status;
  • acting for Hamilton International Airport in challenging a decision by Customs to impose charges for passenger clearance services;
  • acting for SkyCity Auckland Ltd, in appealing a decision of the Gambling Commission categorising electronic roulette as a gaming machine rather than a table game;
  • appointed as counsel assisting the court in two cases challenging the smoking ban in prisons, successfully arguing in one that a prison rule was invalid and in the other that regulations were invalid.
  • representing an airport company in defending a challenge by Air NZ to its landing charges. The case was eventually favourably settled.
  • acting for SkyCity Auckland Ltd, in seeking a declaration as to the meaning of key provisions of the Gambling Act 2003.
  • acting for a timber exporter, in challenging a decision by the Ministry of Forestry declining to grant export approval for unprocessed ancient swamp kauri;
  • appointed as counsel assisting the court to present arguments on behalf of the respondent in a challenge to the findings of a coroner;
  • acting for Sky Tower Casino Ltd, in defending a challenge to the validity of its casino premises licence by an unsuccessful competing applicant;
  • representing the New Zealand Maori Council, in an action to prevent the sale of Radio New Zealand assets;
  • acting for a multi-national pharmaceutical company, in challenging a decision of the Minister of Health to cut a subsidy on a prescription drug;
  • acting for two port companies, in actions to enforce the offer-back provisions in s 40 of the Public Works Act 1981 in relation to surplus land.
  • defending a judicial review challenge by a competitor to the allocation of fishing quota.

I also advise regulators on the proper exercise of their statutory powers. For example, I have on a number of occasions assisted an airport company with its consultations with airlines on landing charges.

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Contract disputes

I have experience in a range of commercial contract disputes, covering issues such as whether a contract has been concluded, interpretation, waiver and estoppel, misrepresentation and breach, and remedies, including issues relating to causation and damages.

I advised SkyCity Entertainment Group Ltd on discrete regulatory issues relating to casino gaming in the context of the negotiation of the New Zealand International Convention Centre Agreement between SkyCity and the Government. Under this Agreement SkyCity is building an international scale convention centre, and the government has granted certain regulatory concessions.

Other examples include:

  • providing second opinions on issues of contract interpretation in the context of (confidential) complex commercial contracts;
  • advising on the operation and interpretation of the chain of contracts involved in credit card transactions;
  • advising on the interpretation of a contract relating to the installation of high-speed broadband;
  • acting for the purchaser in a proceeding for damages for misrepresentation relating to a (yet to be built) high rise apartment. The case settled favourably in mediation;
  • advising whether negotiations had led to concluded and enforceable contracts to purchase land;
  • acting in proceedings alleging negligent performance of contractual obligations;

I have also given advice on the interpretation of clauses in agreements governing the (non-statutory) source of regulatory powers of public bodies. This overlaps with public law. A recent example was in the context of postal network access. Another was in the context of a racing club.

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Competition and trade practices

I have appeared as counsel in some leading New Zealand competition law cases, including:

  • acting for the Commerce Commission in successful proceedings under s 36 of the Commerce Act 1986 against Telecom for taking advantage of its market power in its wholesale pricing of “data tails” (access to Telecom’s high speed data network). Following a six week High Court trial and subsequent penalty hearing, a (then) record penalty of $12m was awarded. I also appeared for the Commission in successfully defending the subsequent appeals by Telecom to the Court of Appeal on both liability and penalty.
  • acting for the Commerce Commission in appeals to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in proceedings under s 36 of the Commerce Act against Telecom for allegedly taking advantage of its market power in implementing its “0867” scheme. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the “counterfactual test” as the mandatory test of use of market power under s 36.

In these cases the legal team worked with leading US economists.

As well, I acted for the Commission in its first application for a cease and desist order under s 74A of the Commerce Act, against a port owner. The case settled favourably.

I also advise commercial clients on various Commerce Act, Fair Trading Act and other regulatory issues. I have also given advice on ‘niche’ competition regimes, for example:

  • Part 9 of the Civil Aviation Act 1990 relating to strategic alliances between international airlines, and
  • the non-statutory, consensual regime governing postal network access, including the application of the Efficient Component Pricing Rule (ECPR) under the relevant “Pricing Principles”.

This area overlaps with some of my other practice areas, such as public law. For example, a decision by a regulator may involve issues of fair procedure as well as competition law issues.

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Restitution, equity and trusts

I give advice and conduct litigation in relation to equitable claims such as breach of fiduciary duty, knowing receipt, knowing assistance, undue influence, unconscionability, and so on. My work also covers common law restitutionary/unjust enrichment claims, such as money had and received.

In relation to trusts, my focus tends to be on disputes about the interpretation of trust deeds, and the powers and obligations of trustees, both in the context of commercial trusts, such as superannuation schemes, and family trusts.

Some examples include:

  • defending for corporate clients two recent, separate High Court proceedings for money had and received and knowing receipt. In each case the claim was discontinued;
  • acting for the trustees of a discretionary trust in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in their successful defence of a proceeding brought by a beneficiary seeking access to trust information. Also in issue was whether the interests of a discretionary and final beneficiary can constitute “property” under the Insolvency Act 2006;
  • advising the trustees of various corporate superannuation schemes as to their obligations in relation to the distribution of fund surpluses;
  • advising the trustees of discretionary family trusts of their obligations in deciding which discretionary beneficiaries should receive a distribution;
  • representing a group of retired plan members in a High Court proceeding against a company and its trustees in relation to a superannuation fund surplus. The case settled before trial.
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Regulatory law

I have acted for both commercial clients and regulatory bodies in cases involving heavily regulated business environments, including, for example:

  • regional airport companies. I have advised on landing charges consultations, and a dispute regarding airport security designations;
  • casinos. I often advise on regulatory issues relating to casino licensing and the conduct of casino gambling; Read more
  • postal network access. I have given advice on pricing (including the application of ECPR), and consultation;
  • regulation of international air carriage under Part 9 of the Civil Aviation Act 1990. This has included advice on the authorisation of a strategic alliance between two international airlines;
  • the Public Works Act surplus lands offer-back regime. This has sometimes involved significant research into the history of the land ownership;
  • the New Zealand electricity markets;
  • also, telecommunications, including advice on a contract relating to the roll-out of Ultra-Fast Broadband.

I recently acted for the Commissioner of Inland Revenue in a three week trial involving alleged tax avoidance on the part of Cullen Group Ltd, a company found to be controlled by Eric Watson. The Commissioner’s assessment of over $112m (including penalty interest) was upheld.

In these contexts I frequently provide advice on complex issues of statutory and contract interpretation.

This work overlaps with some of my other practice areas such as public law, competition law, contract law, casino regulation, and trustee law.

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Casino regulation

I have regularly acted for casino licence holders, over many years since the first North Island casino premises licence was granted to SkyCity. This includes ongoing advice on issues of regulatory compliance, often involving complex issues of statutory interpretation.

I advised SkyCity on discrete regulatory issues relating to casino gaming in the context ofthe negotiation of the New Zealand International Convention Centre Agreement between SkyCity and the Government. Under this Agreement SkyCity is building an international scale convention centre, and the Government has granted certain regulatory concessions.

I have appeared in significant defended public hearings before the Gambling Commission and former Casino Control Authority, including:

  • acting for SkyCity Hamilton Limited in a recent two week hearing before the Commission. This was a test case relating to the substitution of table games and EGMs under s 12 of the Gambling Act 2003.
  • acting for SkyCity Casino Management Ltd in a review of its licence conditions, including in relation to host responsibility;
  • acting for Queenstown Casinos Ltd in its successful application for a casino premises licence in Queenstown. There were competing applications and the hearing lasted for some months.
  • representing SkyCity Casino Management Ltd in its successful application for a casino operator’s licence;
  • acting for SkyCity Casino Management Ltd in a successful application to increase the number of table games and EGMS at the Auckland Casino;
  • acting for casino licence holders in various applications for orders varying casino licence conditions or for administrative approvals.

I have also represented casino licence holders in a number of court proceedings, for example:

  • acting for Sky Tower Casino Ltd, the holder of the first North Island casino premises licence, in successfully defending a judicial review challenge (brought by a competing applicant) to the decision of the Casino Control Authority granting the licence. This remains a leading case on apparent bias and the Court’s remedial discretion.
  • acting for SkyCity Auckland Ltd in a successful appeal to the High Court from a decision of the Gambling Commission categorising electronic roulette as a gaming machine rather than a table game;
  • representing SkyCity Auckland Ltd in a test case seeking a declaration as to the proper interpretation of key provisions of the Gambling Act 2003.
  • acting for a casino licence holder in defending an appeal to the High Court by the PGF from a decision of the Gambling Commission. This was favourably resolved.

In addition, I have made submissions on behalf of casino licence holders to select committees and to the Regulations Review Committee in relation to proposed legislative changes.

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Negligence and torts

I provide advice and advocacy in cases relating to professional negligence, and related areas such as disciplinary proceedings before administrative tribunals, the courts’ wasted costs jurisdiction, and costs revisions and reviews.  Some examples include:

  • acting for a barrister in defending a High Court proceeding brought against that barrister by a former client claiming damages for negligent advice;
  • acting for a firm of auditors in defending a High Court negligence proceeding brought by the liquidators of RSL;
  • acting for a plaintiff in a High Court proceeding against a firm of naval architects and structural engineers for damages for negligent design;
  • representing the New Zealand Bar Association as intervenor in a test case relating to barristers’ immunity.  This case went to the Supreme Court;
  • acting for a barrister challenging a wasted costs order made against her by the High Court.  This test case went to the Privy Council, and the order was set aside;
  • acting for a barrister in disciplinary proceedings before the New Zealand Law Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal;
  • acting for a retired senior medical specialist against whom disciplinary charges were brought following the Cartwright Report, including issuing a High Court proceeding seeking an order staying the charges;
  • acting for a barrister in defending an application to the High Court to review a decision of a Registrar confirming a costs revision by a Law Society committee.

I have also acted in a range of tort disputes, including defending claims asserting novel duties of care.

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But wait, there’s more

Here’s a brief history, in lieu of a CV.

I was born in Invercargill, and reared on Bluff oysters, toheroa from Oreti Beach, and blustery southerlies. We moved to Auckland during my primary school years. Later I went to Carmel College, where I was dux but a bit short on sporting achievement. I graduated from Auckland University with a BA (majoring in French, with mathematics and economics) and an LLB, and somehow snaffled a senior prize in law.

My early training in the law was at Russell McVeagh, where I was lucky to work for two very highly regarded former litigation partners, the late Justice Brad Giles and the late Robert Fardell QC. I credit them both with inspiring a love of court work and a dedication to doing things well.

Over the years I have done a lot of voluntary work for animal welfare organisations, in the form of advocacy, submission-writing, and legal advice. I have just acted (with a great team) in a successful judicial review proceeding challenging factory farming practices. There is still a need for significant law reform in this area. Recently I also helped a refugee claimant, in his two High Court hearings, and in his successful appeal to the Court of Appeal. A difficult case that I think also highlighted the inadequacy of New Zealand’s current refugee efforts.

Although committees are not my natural home, as a member of the Bar Association’s Law Reform Committee I have regularly contributed to the Association’s submissions on the government’s latest law reform proposals. I also enjoy presenting seminars. Two of my seminars, “Don’t just sit there” and “Be your own advocate”, were aimed at encouraging young women lawyers to seize opportunities to have speaking roles in court, rather than settling for the role of a silent junior.

I have a wonderful daughter, Steph. She currently works in communications in London. Her wry sense of humour shows no deference. On a wet, windy day I returned from a walk with Charlie (my rambunctious and rather scruffy löwchen) and had a facetime call with Steph. After surveying my disarray she observed: “I think you and Charlie both need a good brush”.

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