It wasn’t the promised palm trees that welcomed Luke Walker’s family to New Zealand – it was rugby riots in the streets of Wellington.
Five-year-old Luke and his parents landed in the capital in 1981 – on the day of the second test between New Zealand and South Africa during the controversial Springbok rugby tour.
“We were staying in a motel in Newtown, it was a great winter day and there were riots at Athletic Park,” says Luke.
- Luke John (Luke) Walker
- Grimsby, England
- Entry to law
- Graduated LLB (Honours) and BCA from Victoria University. Admitted in 1999.
- Partner at Morrison Mallett, Wellington.
- Speciality area
- Commercial and corporate, corporate restructuring, securities, banking and finance.
“My parents – who were hippies – almost turned around and headed back to England. New Zealand was advertised as a Pacific country to the people in England - with grass skirts, palm trees and the like. We arrived to riots, not at all what was advertised.”
Stewart and Irene Walker had the Netherlands, Kuwait and New Zealand on a short list of countries to settle in. “New Zealand came out on top because of how it was advertised.”
“We came from Burton upon Trent, a working man’s town, renowned for the best breweries, Marmite and Ovaltine.”
Luke’s father was in computers, taught himself how to code, came out here and joined Robert Muldoon’s government in the big push to develop IT skills in New Zealand.
Among other things his father worked on was the technology for eftpos machines, before returning to England for a while as chief information officer for some of the big breweries.
With no other lawyers in the family, Luke and his brother Donovan - a primary schoolteacher in London named after the Scottish folk singer - grew up in Wellington.
Married to primary school teacher Samantha, another expat from England whom he met at university, and with daughters Ayla (12) and Sophie (10), Luke lives at Waikanae beach, north of Wellington.
He recently became partner at Morrison Mallett, the specialist commercial law firm he joined in 2013. He previously worked for Buddle Findlay in commercial law, banking and intellectual property.
Following mum and dad’s footsteps
“Kids have an impact on your hobbies and I am very focused on the family. We took up tennis and badminton, and surfing recently. We are avid board gamers as a family.
“We are also do a bit of tramping, do DoC hut tramps, and are building up to do the Abel Tasman track. My parents were keen walkers overseas and I would like to do some of the walks they have done, such as the Camino de Santiago – the way of St James – in Spain.”
Camino de Santiago is a network of pilgrims' ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried.
Luke was an avid badminton player, a sports blue and captain of the senior team at Upper Hutt College but finds it difficult to play because of only two or three centres in the region. “So we have taken up tennis as a family thing.”
“Samantha and I have travelled quite a bit, to Montreal, which we love, Sydney and the Gold Coast. We did a family trip to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, spending four weeks doing the south west. We saw London Bridge sitting in the middle of the desert at Lake Havasu City, in Arizona.”
The bridge was built in the 1830s and formerly spanned the River Thames. It was dismantled in 1967 and relocated to Lake Havasu City in Arizona.
“The story is Robert McCulloch thought he bought Tower Bridge but didn’t read the fine print. Havasu also has a lot of tacky looking London statues to make you feel like you are at home.
Building things … in law
“When going through school I was at a bit of a loss at what to do. I was reasonably good academically but it’s hard to know where to place it. I enjoyed history and English, and was okay at sciences and maths.
“I was looking for something to give me a challenge. The idea that it would be something intellectually challenging and also have an output which was much more tangible than some of the other options available at the time.
“I had a history teacher who advised me against law on the basis that there were not enough historians in the world. It was all about having something to mentally stimulate me and to keep pushing me a bit - which it has done.
“I was drawn to commercial law initially because it was about building things. I like helping people build things. The last 10 years has been more about helping people get through their problems.
“I can’t watch law programmes. I tried Ally McBeal but struggle with legal shows.
“Some of the appeal of the law was not knowing exactly what it meant, there was a bit of a mystery behind it. At high school it seemed a really important thing to be doing. I was looking for a direction.
“I do not play any instruments but enjoy music – particularly the post rock contemporary classical genre. Instrumentals which I guess evolved out of Pink Floyd and the like.
“I went to a concert recently by Japanese band Mono and it was one of the best experiences I have been to. They have been around for about 20 years. The inspiring thing about them is how hard they work – they did about 100 concerts last year.
“I was a child of the grunge era and parents go back to the hippy days, so I grew up with everything from Led Zeppelin to Donovan – which is where my brother’s name comes from.
“My parents were both hippies. I’m lucky I wasn’t called Sunshine or Starbeam. Dad had hair longer than Mum’s when they got married. There was always music in the family and a guitar at one point. We share quite a bit of music with our kids.”
Commuting by train into Wellington an hour each way allows Luke time to get through a few books, mainly fantasy such as Lord of the Rings, Cloud Atlas and the work of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. “Murakami has a realism and dreamlike quality to his books, called magical realism.”
“I’m a big film buff and still have lots of dvds. I like everything from black and whites of the 40s and 50s to modern.
“The kids like Ender’s Game, based on a sci-fi book of the same name.
“I am a fan of Dead Poets’ Society, Star Wars and the recent spate of Marvelmovies.
“We have joined the streaming movement. I like American science fiction, drama-horror series Stranger Things, Chernobyl and will watch the upcoming television series Tales from the Loop, based on the narrative art book by Simon Stalenhag.”
There are three cats in Luke’s household – ginger Tom Aslan (16) and tortoiseshell Sheba (17), both from the SPCA and who came along before their children – and Luna.
“I drive a Ford Focus hatchback and we manage to maintain one car only. It is not an expensive car.
“We love the shopping and vibe of Sydney as a holiday destination. In New Zealand we enjoy holidaying around the house and Riversdale Beach is also popular with the family. I used to go there as a kid, it’s isolated and nice.
“Dinner guests would be the people who inspire me or interest me now – such as the band Mono or writer Murakami. It would be interesting to talk to them about how they do what they do.
“I get very inspired by people who are able to stay prolific in whatever they are doing for an extended period of time, yet never become stale or slow down. They manage to evolve themselves, remain relevant and keep themselves fresh.
“In relation to the law and life in general, one of the biggest challenges is to keep moving forward and not to become brittle.
“I love to cook and recently moved to a mainly vegetarian diet. We manage that by me cooking at the weekends, giving my wife time to herself. I enjoy buying the food, preparing it and the social activity that comes at the other end. And my daughters are now interested in more vegetarian food on the table.
“This sounds bizarre but the one that broke the back for us was a tofu bolognaise, which sounds disgusting, but you replace the mince with mashed tofu, mushrooms, lentils and walnuts. It is so convincing we have put it on for a couple of people and one who was trying to eat more vegetarian food was convinced it was a meat dish and wouldn’t eat it.
“I enjoy having to take more care with food. I like craft beer, Tuatara and North End from Waikanae, and red wine more than white.”
May the force be with you, Luke
“I remember one situation when we secured a big client for the firm after we were across the table from them, acting against them. It all went very well, then within a matter of weeks we had an approach to see if we would act for them. It was probably one of the best compliments we get as lawyers.
“If you had asked me about an alternative career before my wife became a teacher, I would have said teaching. But I don’t think I would do that now having seen it up close and personal.
“I’m a fan of American fantasy fiction writer Terry Brooks – one of the biggest-selling living fantasy writers. That has always been a dream – maybe I could be writing romantic novels on Amazon.”
With a name like Luke Walker, being a Star Wars fan and being born the year the first film was released, it’s no surprise the nickname Sky cropped up, mainly at university.
“There have been lots of references to Luke Skywalker.
“My wife had a hard time at university going out with Luke ‘Sky’ Walker - people claimed she was making her boyfriend’s name up. It has stuck.”