New Zealand Law Society - How high altitude trekking clears the head of law

How high altitude trekking clears the head of law

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Law wasn't the first choice for high altitude tramper, trekker and photographer Alyn Higgins, who started doing a commerce degree in management and industrial relations before moving into law.

"I think being inquisitive and wanting to know how and why things happened and whether they had to happen the way they did happen attracted me more to law," says Alyn, who joined Wellington's Quigg Partners in March as a senior associate.

Alyn John (Alyn) Higgins
Palmerston North. 
Not telling. 
Entry to law
Graduated LLB BCA(Hons) in law, management and industrial relations from Victoria University in 2003. Admitted in 2004. 
Senior associate at Quigg Partners, Wellington. 
Speciality area
Employment, privacy, sale of liquor.
Alyn Higgins
Alyn Higgins

He was previously lead employment relations counsel at the Ministry of Education, after nearly ten years as employment relations advisor with the Hospitality Association of New Zealand.

 "...fortunately the confrontational industrial days are mostly gone..."

"The Ministry of Education is one of the higher unionised sectors and a lot of the job involved representing the ministry in its relationships with the unions it dealt with…

"There were tense moments at times but overall it was quite constructive…The parties recognise the importance of having a relationship and because of important services people were delivering the ministry wanted to work constructively with the unions to help achieve what everyone wanted to be achieved…

"And fortunately the confrontational industrial days are mostly gone, which is good…"

The only lawyer in his family and with a long-term partner in HR, Alyn is a member of the employment law committee of the New Zealand Law Society's Wellington branch.

A keen tramper for more than ten years from his days with the Victoria University tramping club, he aims to get into the hills at least once a month, mainly in the nearby Tararua ranges.

A four-door Mazda Familia carts all his tramping gear around. "When heading out to the country for tramping you don't want anything too flash…"

"I've done a lot of tramping with clubs over the years and been to a lot of areas … My favourite location is the South Island's Arthurs Pass… One of the challenges is finding new places to get to and if the weather assists so much the better…

"The university tramping clubs are very active and I made good friendships through the Victoria club … It's good for the head to get into the outdoors away from law…"

A swimmer, Alyn also does a lot of ice and rock climbing – mountaineering – including in the Himalayas and South America, and has climbed Mt Taranaki twice along with several South Island peaks.

He is off at the end of June with five other trampers to South America for some high altitude trekking at between five and six thousand metres.

"It's not oxygen assisted so you can't be as active and quick as at lower levels because of the thinness of the air…

"We will be in Peru, Bolivia and Chile for about five days to do the Inca Trail along with some other treks… It's a good time of the year to be in that area…"

A keen photographer, he'll have with him his Nikon DSLR500 camera, a decent lens and tripod – which he says is handy for photographing the tango sessions at night.

"I went to a number of tango shows in Argentina and you need a tripod to capture the high movement in low light … I'll be taking plenty of pictures…

"With viewing and reading I like thrillers and fantasy stuff such as Game of Thrones … GoT looks a bit disjointed at the moment and could go anywhere, I hope it hasn't reached its peak…

"I like music but don't play any instruments … I like a good mix of New Zealand and international performers including David Bowie, English singer Adele and Eric Clapton…"

A fan of Bryce Courtenay and Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth – "that's a huge book" - he is looking forward reading to Follett's followup World Without End.

"On holiday in the Coromandel and Bay of Islands I lie about and do as little as possible … It makes a change from the high altitude which can be exhausting if you are doing a lot of walks over a short period of time…"

Having worked as a chef in hotels and restaurants in Wellington and London while overseas for a couple of years, Alyn says he is pretty good in the kitchen – favouring seafood, Mediterranean style dishes and paellas.

His dinner guest of choice – alive or dead - would be assassinated US president John F Kennedy.

"He had so much to offer the world and always seemed to have trouble getting that across…There was a great brain there cut off before it's time…" 

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at

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