Public law

Strategic advisors to organisations operating at the intersection of public and private sectors

Public sector entities operate in an environment where they are tasked with engaging in complex commercial activities within the tight confines of public policy frameworks.

A key focus within our practice is to work with clients to understand the legal obligations that govern public sector decision making and how to work within those constraints to produce commercially acceptable outcomes.

Our cross-sector expertise and extensive government and private sector experience helps us to develop, broker and oversee solutions that meet both public policy and commercial objectives. We take pride in assisting our public sector clients to achieve their objectives and deliver better outcomes and services for New Zealanders. We want the legal function, and our collaboration with an agency’s own internal lawyers, to be an enabler of those things and recognised as a source of value. 

Our dedicated Wellington-based team provides solutions that meet public policy and commercial objectives while minimising legal risk, including:

  • advising on the application of administrative law to a wide range of situations
  • appearing on applications for judicial review and making applications for interim orders
  • providing advice and guidance on the development of statutory decision-making frameworks to minimise the chances of successful legal challenge
  • advising on difficult questions of statutory interpretation
  • providing guidance on a wide range of public issues including the Official Information Act, the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, Parliamentary issues including Select Committee powers, and the disallowance of regulations
  • assisting with day-to-day commercial, contracting, property, procurement, compliance and other business-as-usual matters (including data use and privacy and the Official Information Act) through to high value contracts and commercial transactions (including major ICT and construction projects) and disputes.

Some of our recent notable highlights include advising:

  • Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency on a wide range of governance, delegations, statutory powers and funding issues
  • Auckland City Council on a suggested legislative design for public and private funding of core horizontal infrastructure
  • Christchurch City Council on the governance, functions, funding and legislative framework for a joint Crown/Council regeneration authority
  • Ministry of Education on the Government’s decision, in 2017, to remove the Partnership School/Kura Hourua (charter schools) model from the education system
  • Ōtākaro on a range of public law issues including application of the Official Information Act
  • intervening iwi in the landmark Supreme Court hearing in Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, concerning the ability of iwi to access the Courts to challenge Treaty of Waitangi settlements to be effected by legislation
  • Transpower on statutory appeal and judicial review proceedings arising out of Electricity Authority determinations
  • GNS Science on a new legislative framework reflecting its extended public good role in providing natural hazard warnings to the New Zealand public
  • New Zealand Steel on declaratory judgment proceedings in relation to the interpretation of the powers of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga
  • Social Investment Agency on various advisory matters
  • Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori Development, on its procurement of, and ongoing contracts with, three Whānau Ora Commissioning agents.
Highly recommended for public law work.Chambers Asia Pacific 2024