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James (Jim) Kempster Guthrie CNZM, 1949 - 2014

Jim packed an enormous amount into his life, and did much more in his 64 years and 340 days than most achieve in far longer lives.

Born 26 January 1949 in Luton, England, to Ron and Winifred, Jim – with his parents, sister Carol and brother Steve – emigrated to New Zealand by boat in 1956. They then settled in Dunedin.

Jim went to Otago Boys' High School then studied law, as well as completing a BA in philosophy, at Otago University. While at University he met his future wife, Barbara.

He was an avid climber until he slipped coming down off Mt Cook on New Year's Eve 1981.This accident put him in a critical condition. Jim, though, was both fit and determined. He pulled through.

During his months in traction he was soon dictating legal letters from his bed.

Jim's passion for the environment had previously led him to outstanding environmental advocacy, including leading cases in water conservation – from the Rakaia River to the Wanganui.

His compassion for women and children meant he became a willing advocate for their interest, fighting for fairness before the Matrimonial Property Act conferred property protections to women in 1976.

Jim chaired the Anderson Lloyd legal partnership for many successful and happy years. He pushed the use of technology, and encouraged specialisation. Over time, Jim led the firm's RMA practice to becoming one of the best in the country, which is no mean feat from Dunedin.

He was President of the New Zealand Resource Management Law Association for some years.

He was a member and then Chair of the New Zealand Conservation Authority – the body which oversees New Zealand's national parks. Jim later accepted appointment by the Minister of Social Welfare to the expert panel which formed the first Child Protection team in New Zealand.

In recognition of his services to so many branches of our community Jim was recognised in the New Year's honours in 2005 when he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

As he dealt with his own frailties, Jim displayed a humility that made him many new friends and he became a treasured patient for many of those who helped care for him. In the end, having climbed many metaphorical mountains after Cook, it was Parkinson's that brought his legal career to a premature end.

Jim died on 1 January 2014. He will be remembered as a beloved friend and mentor who had kindness at the core of his being.

This obituary was first published in Cur Adv Vult, the newsletter of the Otago branch of the New Zealand Law Society, February 2014. 

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Last updated on the 17th February 2014