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Outdoors man lured south by deer, duck and salmon

23 April 2015

By Jock Anderson

Gregory Eric (Greg) Martin

BornPort Elizabeth, South Africa.
Age46.
Entry to lawGraduated LLB(Hons) from University of Wales, Cardiff, 1998. Qualified as chartered company secretary in UK. Admitted in New Zealand 2007.
WorkplacePartner based in White Fox & Jones Ashburton branch.
Specialty areaCommercial, rural law, leases, trusts and property.

Photo of Greg Martin and fish
Lawyering in Ashburton may be a far cry from being a radio presenter in Wales or an executive in the world's second biggest brewery, but for South African-born outdoors man Greg Martin it's all about enjoying the best work/life balance.

Deciding to settle in New Zealand in 2006, Greg spent four years in Ashburton after his admission, followed by three years in Christchurch before returning to Ashburton, where he was recently made partner in White Fox & Jones Ashburton branch.

Hearing good things about New Zealand from his Anglican priest brother, who moved here from the UK in 2003, Greg – who graduated LLB (Hons) from the University of Wales, Cardiff, in 1998 - spent 18 months doing conversion exams and courses at Canterbury University before being admitted in 2007.

"That first 18 months gave me time to see what the South Island has to offer and get in a bit of hunting and fishing between studies."

Born in Port Elizabeth, in the Natal midlands, Greg was president of his prep-school trout club, growing up fishing, sailing and enjoying the outdoor life from when he was three.

"The Natal midlands are very much like Canterbury, with mountains, plains and streams. It was a great opportunity to also get into hunting and deerstalking."

Greg's family left South Africa in the late 1980s to live in the UK and after graduating in Cardiff he worked presenting and producing on commercial music radio stations in Wales and managing a small radio station in London.

He followed that with a stint in company secretary work for London-based SABMiller, the second biggest brewer in the world – whose origins go back to South Africa in 1895.

After several years working for SABMiller, he wanted to work in a general legal practice and live somewhere other than a big city –"an ideal lifestyle location" – with his partner Marel, who is of German and Dutch extraction.

"In Ashburton, after a hard week's work, you get to Friday, chuck a rifle and pack in back of the truck and head off to Arthur's Pass, or the top of the Rangitata, and get there quickly…

"I had a perky little Toyota Rav 4 which got into places people could not believe, and now have a Mitsubishi Challenger … it's more comfortable, diesel, more grunt and I can sleep in the back as well…

"This is the sort of place I wanted to live in.

"Marel is creative and does abstract painting and she misses Christchurch but it's only up the road. I do some sculpture, photography and writing and we both love good movies."

Greg's story-telling skills have appeared in his popular monthly "Brass and Feathers" column in the Ashburton Guardian for 18 months – an unpaid contribution extolling the virtues and fun of the great outdoors.

"I don't read much for pleasure, preferring to be outdoors.

"I'm a fan of the National Geographic and Discovery channels, especially shows like Gold Rush Alaska, Alaskan Bush Families and Airplane Repo. For drama we watch The Good Wife, which is quite accurately written about politics in law firms."

With top salmon rivers the Rangitata and Rakaia only a few minutes away, Greg is often able to give the fish "a nudge before work".

"This year a mate and I found a spot on the Rakaia lower reaches where we caught 16 salmon in four to five weeks."

Introduced to deer stalking – his favourite hunting rifle is a Ruger Hawkeye in 25-06 calibre and he keeps a Ruger HMR .17 calibre rifle handy for hares and rabbits – Greg says commercial helicopter operations have cleaned out a lot of Canterbury hunting country.

"Big chunks of Department of Conservation land have nothing on them.

"Unless you can get up high among the tahr – and that's hard going – deer are generally disappointing unless you head further south to Fairlie or out the back of Dunedin.

"I have a couple of trophy heads – which didn't fit in the house - on my office wall and they look good but I'm not much interested in shooting animals unless I can recover meat.

"That's one of the challenges … I am very much into eating venison and salmon…"

Legal partner and keen duck-shooter Geoff Kean introduced Greg to duck shooting last year on a client's new irrigation pond.

"I think this year we will have a better season … I'm not a huge fan of eating mallards … I love duck and UK ducks, but here it is a very different thing comparing a mild mannered mallard to a farmed duck in Europe.

"I'm in it mainly for the social element, it's good fun…"

After qualifying in New Zealand, Greg came close to accepting a job in a Blenheim law firm before getting another offer from Christchurch.

"I told them I was going fishing on the Opihi for a couple of days, dropped by on the way back in my fishing gear and that's how I came to be in Canterbury.

"There is plenty to keep me in the South Island. Ashburton has a strong, growing local economy but lawyers think there is a stigma to living or working here.

"It's seen by some as the wop wops. Lawyers have moved to work in Ashburton but prefer to live in Methven , which they think sounds 'better' for some reason…

"I have no regrets coming to New Zealand, or Ashburton.

"My brother is now a priest in Nelson, so maybe one day he'll become a bishop and I'll become a judge, and our parents will be very pleased…" 

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for several decades. He also writes the weekly Caseload column for the New Zealand Herald. Contact Jock at jockanderson123@gmail.com.

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Last updated on the 14th April 2016