When opportunities arise Auckland general practitioner Andrew Orr shuts his office door and heads to the ski slopes or one of the camping grounds he owns around the country – piloting his own helicopter.
Andrew’s love of flying came from a mix of fear and intrigue sparked by a Wellington College sixth form maths project.
“My project was on statistics around helicopter crashes.” says Andrew, a director of a company that now owns a four-seater Robinson R44 Raven 2 helicopter, which it leases to commercial operators.
- Andrew James Robertson (Andrew) Orr
- Entry to law
- Graduated LLB from Victoria University in 1996. Admitted in 1997.
- Sole practitioner at AJO Legal, Auckland.
- Speciality area
- General practice.
“I don’t know if I really wanted to be a helicopter pilot. I was intrigued by it, liked the challenge and was also a little bit scared by it as well.”
His wife Katherine, an industrial workplace psychologist whose father, a retired English plastic surgeon, also flew helicopters, bought Andrew a flying voucher “to give it a go”.
“I went for a lesson and in the end decided it was too expensive so learned to fly a fixed wing plane. In my first few jobs I was trying to save $50 a week and go for another lesson.
“That dragged on forever and I finally got my fixed wing licence in 2005, and my helicopter licence a few years later.
“It helped doing the fixed wing first, it is a bit cheaper and you get used to the concept of being in the air and eventually doing it by yourself. Helicopter flying involves really sensitive control movements, much more sensitive than with fixed wing. You train yourself to relax and control the machine, which is part of the initial art and a challenge.
“Planes are reasonably stable, you could jump in a plane this afternoon and be able to control it in the air. Helicopters are much less inherently stable. You are constantly touching and moving things with a combination of hands and feet.”
Robinson helicopters have been involved in several crashes in New Zealand, some of them fatal, but Andrew says “falling out of the sky maybe reflects the way people fly them in New Zealand”.
“They are very capable little machines. But like anything you are not going to take your Toyota Starlet through Molesworth Station or your speed boat across the Tasman. Every plane and helicopter has things it is designed to do and in New Zealand we tend to push the helicopter a bit far.”
Campgrounds of his own
One of Andrew’s flying destinations is Opoutere campground on the Coromandel east coast, which he and a group of mates, including some lawyers, teamed up for and bought 10-12 years ago.
They also bought a campground at Hahei and more recently bought the Wanaka Top Ten campground, all of which are leased to operators.
“It’s a business interest and a hobby. We like combining things, which is why I became a sole practitioner to get the freedom to do everything so I’m not fighting with partners. I can do a bit for half a day, do something else in the evening, and also get away. It’s flexible and great.
“We bought Opoutere, which has an old house on site, because we wanted a bach and also some income. We got into a bit of a niche and bought the other camp grounds.”
Andrew and Katherine also bought a nearby farmhouse which he is doing up and is used for weddings on the beach.
“We do a few boys’ trips and skip away to Great Barrier Island for some fishing with mates. There’s the occasional ski trip. Sneak down to Ruapehu during the day when no one’s any the wiser.”
Flexibility allows Andrew to work from his central Auckland office and from home on Remuera’s Mt Hobson, where he gets daughters Mia (11) and Zoe (8) ready for school. “Katherine is less flexible and is out of the house at 7 while I get the kids ready and make their lunch.”
“The family like going in the helicopter. The first time for Zoe was when she was two and we were going to my lawyer mate’s parent’s farm in Hawke’s Bay. I think she thought it was a car until it started up and lifted up.
“I could see the shock on her face, but Mum had planned the whole thing and stuck a lollipop in her mouth. She had never had a lollipop before, so all of a sudden nothing else in the world mattered.”
Law over adventure
Originally wanting to work in adventure tourism, Andrew – who has done a lot of skiing, rock climbing, a bit of mountaineering, mountain bike riding and kayaking – started a politics degree with criminology thrown in. “I then decided to get myself through the system as quickly as possible, so stuck to law.”
“Adventure tourism was going to be the life for me but I got side-tracked into law.”
The first lawyer in his family, Andrew’s parents didn’t want him to go into adventure tourism and encouraged him to do law. “I came in a bit by default but they said I would learn a lot about business through law.
“That was very wise advice in hindsight. Law enables you to be involved in so many other things, and develop a diverse career. There are so many different angles to it, particularly in general practice stuff.
“If you don’t like the type of work you are doing, you can change it. Find a client who wants you to do the work and learn about it. If you can’t find something in law that appeals there is something wrong with you.”
“I played rugby at Wellington College and university, still chug around the touch rugby field and manage to do things at the kids’ school.”
“I am the least musically gifted person in the world, renowned for my taste and terrible singing.”
On a recent boys’ ski trip to Wanaka – catching up with university mates – Andrew went into training to learn the lyrics of their favourite Pearl Jam songs from the 1990s.
His favourite reading is autobiographical and adventure type books, particularly about old helicopter pilots and venison recovery, including Hurricane Tim, Neville Peat’s story of businessman and aviation entrepreneur Sir Tim Wallis, who pioneered live deer capture from helicopters. “Sir Tim had a few dings but was not afraid to get up and get going again.”
“I like American writer JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. And Miriam Lancewood’s Woman in the Wilderness.”
He recently read Nicola McCloy’s book The Mt Pisa Station Story.
A fan of Game of Thrones and the National Geographic channel, most of his evenings are taken up with supervising homework, getting his girls ready for bed and story-reading.
Having “imported an English wife” the family head for the Yorkshire dales every couple of years to visit Katherine’s family and relatives.
“We don’t do much other travel but bounce between Wanaka and the Coromandel.
“I’ve got a nice car, a grunty V8 Audi RS4 – Katherine also has a V8 - but most of the time I drive a little 50cc scooter moped thing around town. I’m a big Land Rover fan and have an old ex-Army V8 soft-top down at the beach. We throw all the kids in the back and they have turns driving it.
“We have a Labrador Hungarian Vizsla cross and a Labrador white-haired pointer cross.
“I tag along to duckshooting opening weekend but I am a hopeless hunter. I shoot holes in the sky. We often fly to those kinds of weekends. We tell the kids we are off for a weekend duck rescuing and get a picture of someone cradling a duck.
Mr and Mrs Miller
“I don’t have a memorable case but it’s hard to beat Lord Denning’s famous cricket club dissenting judgment.”
Miller v Jackson  QB 966 is a famous Court of Appeal of England and Wales case in torts of negligence and nuisance in which a Court majority found a local cricket club was liable in nuisance or negligence when cricket balls were hit over the boundary and onto the property of their neighbours Mr and Mrs Miller. The beginning of Lord Denning’s dissenting judgment is particularly well known.
“My alternative career would probably be as a helicopter pilot, or heli-ski guide. Maybe farming because I love the old high country station life away from phones, computers and emails.
“For dinner guests I’m probably supposed to say something responsible about a famous jurist from years ago. But I would have American aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 during an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight round the world - so we can finally find out what happened.
“Maybe Donald Trump, his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, and let’s pull in their great grandchildren as well and they can tell them what they have stuffed up so they know now what to avoid in future.
“My 11-year-old is turning into a more proficient cook than I am so maybe she’ll do one of her New Zealand seafood stir fries and there’d have to be some craft beer - McLeod’s Paradise pale ale, from Waipu. Some mates of mine started brewing there a few years ago.
“If Mr Trump, who doesn’t drink, started having a few beers he might become rational.”