New Zealand Law Society - Childhood dancer’s footy field entry to provincial legal circle

Childhood dancer’s footy field entry to provincial legal circle

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Quentin Hix’s entry to law in Timaru came when he correctly answered two important questions: “Which foot do you kick with and which rugby team would you play for if you come here?”

“That’s what Brian Petrie, the senior partner in Petrie Mayman Clark, asked at my interview. So I played for Old Boys for a long time, mainly in president’s grade and was club president for a couple of years,” Temuka-born Quentin says.

After beginning his career with Buddle Findlay in Christchurch he returned to his South Canterbury roots in 1992, before branching out on his own in 2004.

Quentin Cheyne Selwyn (Quentin) Hix
Entry to law
Graduated LLB and BCom from Canterbury University in 1989. Admitted in 1989.
Director at Quentin Hix Legal in Timaru.
Specialist area
Governance, general practice and criminal.

“I got into criminal law when I first came to Timaru in 1992. I did it for a while then drifted away from it into commercial and came back and I’m now doing a bit of criminal and commercial.”

Through his busy criminal and commercial practice, Quentin has also developed an interest in governance.

Affiliated to Ngāi Tahu through his local Arowhenua, the principal Māori settlement of South Canterbury, he has been on the iwi’s board for eight years and is a director of its commercial arm, Ngāi Tahu Group Holdings.

He was recently appointed to Dunedin City Holdings, is a director of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) and is a board member of Presbyterian Support South Canterbury, the latter being a voluntary role which he says is as big and complex as any other business he is involved with in terms of governance.

He was previously a director of Hunter Downs Irrigation, a farmer-led initiative aiming to irrigate upwards of 40,000ha of South Canterbury and North Otago farmland.

“I’ve been doing governance for some years and I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to do a voluntary type governance role. I enjoy the Presbyterian Support role because it is something that is based in Timaru and you can see the results in real life here and now by walking round to the homes. And they do some good things.

“In terms of practicalities, the fees I earn most now come from governance roles.”

His role with Ngāi Tahu takes up a lot of his time. “It’s one of those roles where it has formal meetings every second month or so, and in between there are various representational activities.”

For example, in February Quentin represented Ngāi Tahu at the opening of the Earth & Sky observatory at Tekapo.

And being linked to Ngāi Tahu brings other advantages such as whitebait, oysters and crays.

His mother was born and raised in Temuka and ran a little dairy on the main street. His father, a brick and block layer, came down from Ashburton, and spent nearly 30 years with the Temuka Dairy Company and Fonterra.

The family lived on a 30 acre farmlet at Waitohi, a few miles west of Temuka, the area where pioneer aviator Richard Pearse lived and farmed.

Books over delivering babies

Married to Kathy, formerly a polytechnic librarian until becoming a fulltime mum after sons Abraham (just turned 15) and Solomon (12) were born, Quentin had no great plan to be a lawyer.

His deputy principal at Temuka High School told him he was getting University Entrance.

“I didn’t know what to do and he said I should go into the army. But I can’t be bothered getting up early and cleaning boots. I told him I wanted to make money so he said to be a doctor or a lawyer.

“I didn’t want to get up in the middle of the night and deliver babies, so went off and did law. So instead of getting woken up to deliver babies I got woken up in the middle of the night to talk to drunk drivers.

“People used to say at school I would be a good lawyer. I was on the student council and a prefect.

“Temuka high school was co-ed so all the girls got together in our class and came and told the class who was going to be the class representative on the student council. But us boys decided that was not very democratic, we had a vote and I won.”

With no other lawyers in the family – he has a brother in Christchurch and another in the Australian gold mines – and no one else in the family has gone to university.

“My son Abraham is into graphic design and has also done a lot of acting in plays through school. Solomon wants to be a computer programmer.

“Solomon and I do Kyokushin karate and we graded in December to green black tip – the eighth grade of the eleven grades for black belt.

“We got kayaks last year and are looking for places to go. We’ve been to Lake Opuha and some of the rivers.

“We like doing a bit of camping, putting a tent up, lighting a fire and doing a bit of walking behind Geraldine. Both boys are in the scouts and when there’s any chance of parents going out with the scouts I will go along.

“I’m lucky I have the flexibility to spend more time with the kids than if I was on a 9 to 5 job.”

Highland dancing

“I don’t have hobbies but read a lot – mainly series, such as Poldark, Clan of the Cave Bear and Diane Gabaldon’s Outlanders. My father had a lot of Jack Higgins book so I have read a couple of those. I like action stories.

“I’m not musical but I did Highland dancing as a boy until I was 12. My mother wanted girls but didn’t have any so me being the oldest boy had to do the Highland dancing.

“I danced at competitions in Temuka and elsewhere, but did not keep it up. It wasn’t the most masculine thing for a boy in Temuka.

“I like a cross section of music, such as Queen and Bob Marley; no particular genre and pretty stock standard. I like listening to the radio because I drive quite a bit. And I like Jim Mora’s Panel show on Radio New Zealand.

“Most of our time is spent with the kids so when television is on we watch things they watch.  I watch the news and the compromise for the family is The Simpsons. Kathy and I watch old programmes like Friends and One Day At A Time.

“Before the kids Kathy and I would go once or twice a year to Australia, then in the mid-90s we went to America and did a big train trip on sleepers from Los Angeles to New York, back through Chicago and down to New Orleans and Texas. It was good way of seeing the best and the worst of America. Before that I went by myself to Zimbabwe and South Africa on some Contiki Tours.

“I do a bit of driving between Christchurch, Dunedin and the West Coast in my Ngāi Tahu role and used to have a 1990 Toyota Corolla until one day I rented a Ford Falcon XR6 and decided it was the car for me.”

“We have a seven-seater Hyundai Terracan 4x4 which the kids chose. That’s more for camping and going skiing once a year with the school to Round Hill.”

“We moved into a new house in December which has a fish pond with six or seven goldfish.

“My dinner guests would include Winston Churchill because there’s a lot of talk about the new film Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman on the radio. Also, the actor Daniel Day Lewis and someone who’s a bit of fun - Billy Connolly, and comedian Josh Thomson from The Project because he’s a local.

“With plenty of seafood to eat - whitebait, oysters and crays.”

The first one

“The most emotional time in my whole legal career is the very first time I got a not guilty verdict from a district court jury.

“You are young, I was in my 20s. You are just starting out and to hear those two words come from the jury foreman, you have to hold in your emotion because you can’t show any emotion.

“I can’t even remember the case. I lost my first district court jury trial. The second one got a mixed result. The next one I got him off on a pre-trial argument so it didn’t go to the jury.

“All I remember is sitting in court and hearing the words. Before then I’d heard a lot of ‘guilty’, which is not the best.

“I assume the charges were not serious because I was starting out and they don’t let you loose on rape or murder.

“When the clerk asks the foreman for the verdict that’s the moment. It came out not guilty and I realised that’s why you put all the work in.

“You’d think the client would be happy with that. But you get the ones where you do a lot of work, get a good result and they don’t care. Sometimes you think - why am I doing this?”

Over a long career in journalism Jock Anderson has spent many hours in courtrooms and talking to members of the legal profession. He can be contacted at

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