New Zealand Law Society - After-work drinks and the catch that launched a new career path

After-work drinks and the catch that launched a new career path

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Brought up around the Nelson fishing industry, underwater diver and specialist fisheries lawyer Kim Proctor-Western has yet to go to sea.

“I have been on fishing vessels but never been on one at sea,” says Kim, special counsel at Oceanlaw in Nelson and a member of the Law Society’s Environment Law committee.

After-work drinks only 18 months into her legal career gave Kim her first taste of the fishing industry and fisheries law.

Kim Marie (Kim) Proctor-Western
Entry to law
Graduated LLB (Honours) from Canterbury University. Graduate Diploma in marine resource management. Admitted in 1996
Special counsel at Oceanlaw, Nelson.
Speciality area
Fisheries, maritime, aquaculture, employment and business law.
Kim Proctor-Western
Kim Proctor-Western

“We were having drinks after work one night at Fletcher Vautier Moore where I was a junior solicitor about a year and a half into practice, when we received a call from vessel owners that fisheries officers were boarding their vessels in Nelson and they needed immediate assistance.

“Out of that arose the 1998 prosecution of Abel Fisheries and others over misreporting catch. At the time it was the longest-running District Court hearing, running for several weeks in Wellington.

“After that I was tapped on the shoulder by the Ministry of Fisheries and asked if I wanted to come and work for them and I said Yes. So I have been a fisheries lawyer for most of my career.

“Because it came so early in my career the Abel Fisheries prosecution opened up a whole lot of opportunities for a field of practice I hadn’t even thought of. I will never forget that case, it was huge, and I was a very young solicitor.

“I have always been a general litigator and at university I planned my degree around preparing myself for that.

“But that case opened up an industry to me that I had not thought about much. I had lived in Nelson all my life, my friend’s father was captain of fisheries research vessels James Cook and Tangaroa and I always had that around me.

“Being able to incorporate my interests into my work life was probably the big moment.”

Teaching’s in the blood

Kim has taught the applied law and business management course at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) for five years, has a graduate diploma in marine resource management (aquaculture) from the Australian Maritime School, and is an approved assessor for the Seafood Industry Training Organisation’s compliance training.

She is a former trustee and chairwoman of the Fifeshire Foundation charitable trust and a former trustee of the Nelson Regional Breast Cancer Trust.

Her parents Harvey and Denise were at teacher’s college in Christchurch when she was born. Her father taught at Nelson College for 40 years and her mother taught at various schools in Nelson, latterly at Victory School. They have both recently retired.

Her sister, Dr Sarah Proctor-Thomson, is a lecturer at Victoria University, sister Mary-Claire Proctor is head of the school of IT and Business at WelTec and brother Matthew has a graphic design business based in Wanaka.

“I sort of fell into law by mistake. I trained as a radiographer before I became a lawyer. But one woman from my training school developed leukemia and another Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which made me wonder a bit about my career choice. I was in Christchurch and could work as a radiographer while at university, so chose law.

“I had read John Grisham by that stage - The Firm and The Pelican Brief - and had thought about law at school.”

Kim has three children – nearly 13-year-old twins Elsie and Gus, and 15-year-old Poppy, who started on her NCEA journey this year.

“At the age of 47 I needed to know how to scuba dive so my partner and I went to the Gili Islands in Indonesia and I did my dive certificate. I am a member of the Nelson Underwater Club.

“If we go on holiday overseas it’s always where we can do a bit of diving as well. My favourite spot is the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, and the Poor Knights Islands off Northland is the best diving I have done.

“In the last five years I have done a bit more travel, including to India for three weeks in 2012/13. I taught Indian students a lot when I did a stint as a tutor at NMIT. India was the closest and culturally most different place to New Zealand I could go to for a summer holiday.

“I have also been to Bali, other parts of Indonesia, New Caledonia and am hoping to get to New York and the Caribbean this coming summer.”

Chief shouter on the pitch

“I used to play football as a midfielder/centre back in premier or second division club teams and for the Canterbury University second division team. I have experienced the legendary winter tournaments and captained most teams because I could shout at them from the back.

“Playing music skipped me and went to my son Gus who plays the guitar, bass and sings. He’s going to be a rock star. I love music and dance and like it around me. I love Mexican music and if there is a gathering of family I put on some random Mexican album because it’s so happy.

“I’m into thrillers and detective stories: John Grisham, Bernard Cornwell, John Irving – my daughter reads his stuff too – and Ian McEwan’s The Children Act. I also try to read new books and authors I have not heard of.

“I don’t like films because I don’t have the concentration and when I watch television I like documentaries or information. I will watch and re-watch David Attenborough.

“And home improvement stuff. I am a DIY person and have lots of power tools.

“My father is a great DIY-er. I’m a tinker, I like tinkering. I can make most things work. Not mechanical, but everything else, it’s great fun and totally not the law.”

Kim has a small sleepout on her acre-and-a-half property at Kina Beach, north west of Nelson, where she has tested her skills with extensive repairs, replacing weatherboards and re-lining.

“Golden Bay, just over the hill, is my favourite holiday spot and we often go over there camping. I have access to a caravan, or take a tent, or if going luxury a cabin in a camping ground.

“I’ve been to most places in New Zealand and managed to get to Northland and the Coromandel in last couple of years and will get back there.

“We have two Burmese cats - Charlie and Lola - and a two-year-old chocolate Labrador called Happy, who has only just settled down, eight or ten chickens and a goose.

“I have a Honda CRV seven-seater to fit all the children in.”

Artistic talent

“Marc Ellis used to be the answer when asked about dinner guests, but not any more. I would have David Attenborough and from the grave Jacques Cousteau.

“I would probably serve some kind of fish or steak and watermelon and halloumi salad, that’s the best one I make, with potatoes because if the perfect meal is being served it contains potatoes.

“A dessert would be with honey because I’ve got bees and so much honey I don’t know what to do with it.

“I am a keen oil painter and paint people. I love portraiture and figure painting. I have been painting on and off since school and do it in fits and bursts. I’m about to start on a series of workshops at NMIT.

“I have exhibited and have sold some stuff. My grandmother and uncle were artists in Australia and I have some of their paintings. My house is full of my paintings.

“My skills at school were not in English but I was good at history. I was science based and good at maths. I managed to put science into my law practice by doing the fisheries work.

“If I had my time again and knowing what I know now I would be an architect. Drawing houses is the big attraction. If I had come through the school system five or ten years later and had better careers advice I may have gone that way.”

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