New Zealand Law Society - Finding adventure among the injured manatees of Peru

Finding adventure among the injured manatees of Peru

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Zane Fookes
Zane Fookes

Wildlife rescuer, Amazon explorer and social organiser Zane Fookes’ favourite television programme may not come as a surprise.

“My guilty pleasure is watching the Survivor TV series, now into its 37th season,” says Zane, who, with lawyer girlfriend Brooke Reed, jetted off to Cuba and Mexico earlier this month.

“My buddy at work watches Survivor and we discuss it, which is fun to do. I got into it when I was little, with my Dad and the family watching it. I am also watching The Handmaid’s Tale.

Zane Carter (Zane) Fookes
Entry to law
Graduated LLB (Hons) and BA (English Literature) from Victoria University in 2016. Admitted in 2017.
Solicitor at Chapman Tripp, Auckland.
Speciality area
Construction, insurance and maritime litigation, under John McKay.

Zane recently won the Society of Construction Law New Zealand annual essay prize — a competition designed to encourage an interest in construction law amongst undergraduate or recently graduated students — with an essay titled The Inclusion of a Methodology in Construction Contracts: A Question of Control and Liability.

“I first heard about the competition when I was a summer clerk at Chapman Tripp. A partner helped me out with an idea, I did all the research and expanded on the idea and came to my final essay.

“It is about the status of a contractor’s methodology. The methodology for a construction project is the way in which something is built - the method by which the work is undertaken by the contractor.

“My essay was looking at what happens when the principal to the contract might want to incorporate that methodology within the terms of the contract, what the effect of that would be and is that a desirable thing to do.

“It included some practical advice and considerations for lawyers, principals and contractors to consider when discussing the methodology to the contract.

“It ended up being a good topic because it was concise and quite narrow and a layman can understand what’s going on.”

Playing the market

Along with a group of Wellington university friends, Zane is a director of Whiteport Investments Group, formed about four years ago to pursue a sharemarket interest.

“We pool our money, ideas and resources and invest in the NZX and ASX. Playing the market is a good opportunity to learn something about finance and investment and ideally grow our portfolio.

“We are relatively small but it is growing, thankfully. For most of us it’s a side project. We continue to develop our understanding of investment and hopefully make some money. We are ethical investors and don’t invest in anything linked to tobacco or munitions, for example.”

Zane is the oldest of four. His Dad Andrew is an accountant at KiwiRail, and Mum Tracey is in sales at Fonterra’s Tip Top.

His brother Harrison recently graduated with a law degree from Cambridge University, his sister Victoria is in her second year of medicine at Otago University and his youngest brother Ethan is in his final year at Sacred Heart College, Auckland.

“I have a busy life and getting a work/life balance is hard to accomplish.”

He is an organiser of Chapman Tripp’s litigation social club and a keen Thursday night social five-a-side footballer. In his school and student days he was at various times a rower, basketballer and played waterpolo, as well as coaching various sports.

The litigation team came out on top at Chapman Tripp’s annual sports night last year. They couldn’t back that up this year, but came away with the dodgeball crown for the first time. “We were pretty chuffed.”

The edge of the Amazon

Zane previously did volunteer consultancy work with a student not-for-profit organisation to assist public libraries with ideas for marketing, advertising and sponsorship; proof-read articles for the New Zealand Law Students’ Journal and was involved in the Slave Free Seas project with the Wellington Community Justice Project.

He was a tutor for two years in criminal law, including a year as head tutor, at Victoria University, which he says was his favourite part of university.

“I enjoyed talking to students and helping them to develop their understanding in a practical way and always had a good rapport with students. I don’t do criminal law in my practice. I enjoyed it at university and it was a good part-time job.”

His girlfriend Brooke Reed is a lawyer in Bell Gully’s property team, and the couple headed off earlier in September for a holiday in Cuba.

“We wanted to get to Cuba before it gets westernised, and is still more authentic. We are doing a group tour for eight days, then we go to a resort at Playa del Carmen in Mexico for five days – which is a nice break. This is my first proper break since joining Chapman Tripp.

“I did a big trip between leaving university and joining Chapman Tripp – around South America, including Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Peru for two and a half months, mostly on my own.

“One of the best things I’ve done in my life was to go to a town called Iquitos in Peru, on the edge of the Amazon.

“I volunteered for a week at a wildlife sanctuary which specialised in rehabilitating manatees (also known as sea cows). I arrived there, I don’t speak much Spanish.

“They are primarily biology students or vets and they asked why I was there. I said I liked manatees. Since my younger days I always liked them.

“At the sanctuary they rescue manatees and other animals - sloths, ocelots (wild cats), monkeys - if they get injured. There was a manatee that had been shot with a harpoon, and one that had swum up to a boat and someone had hacked at it with a machete across its face.

“They get rescued and brought to the rehabilitation centre where they are cared for. I got to feed the manatees. They are like little babies, like a lamb. You give it a bottle of milk, stick its chin up, stick the bottle of milk in its mouth and they suck away.

“They also get medical treatment. The one shot with a harpoon had to be lifted out of the water every day and have put ointment in its wound. They are injured by people being cruel and not understanding the animals.

“It was a phenomenal experience. I also fed monkeys, snakes and alligators.

“I was catching a wooden bus with no windows, no one spoke English and people were carrying baskets of fish and bushels of bananas. And here’s this little white boy who doesn’t fit in at all and everyone is pointing at me.”

A guide then took him into the Amazon for three days. “Swimming in the Amazon and fishing for piranhas. Then I flew down to Cuzco in Peru, met up with one of my friends from school and went to Machu Picchu.”

Central Otago  

Closer to home, Zane – a relative stranger to the South Island – and some mates, spent last New Year in Wanaka, followed by a four-day road trip round Queenstown, Arrowtown and Te Anau, staying at Department of Conservation campsites.

“My grandparents have a bach at Cooks Beach in Coromandel – that’s my favourite New Zealand spot - and I have been going there as long as I have been alive. I always loved going there and chilling out on beach, water skiing and fishing.”

A clarinetist at high school, that love “fell away” when Zane got to university. “I don’t play anymore and like a bit of every kind of music. I am recently into Texas band Brockhampton.”

As an English Literature major, he will read anything. “My last book is the 2015 novel A Little Life by American novelist Hanya Yanagihara. Pretty phenomenal and a bit depressing.

“My favourite author is Yann Martel, who wrote Life of Pi. It is particularly good writing. He could write about anything and you would enjoy it. Jane Eyre is my favourite classic. It is particularly captivating and interesting.

“I used to write a lot at primary school but not now.

“If I could do anything without having to worry I would be an author. That would be a cool thing to do. Ideally I would write more than I do.

“I would probably write young adult stuff because I’m not good enough to write for adults. Action, young boys adventure stories - that’s what I would do if I didn’t have to worry about money.

“I’m listening to a podcast called Slow Burn, which investigates the Watergate scandal, Clinton’s impeachment and looks at them and how that helps us look at what Trump is getting up to.

“In Wellington you can walk everywhere so I didn’t have a car the whole time I lived there, but I recently bought a Subaru Impreza. I’m not a boy racer, but it’s a fun little car to drive.”

The family pet is a cavoodle called Baxter – a poodle and King Charles Cavalier spaniel cross.


“I can cook - I’m not Nadia Lim but I can get by. I would need someone funny as a dinner guest, such as American talk show host Stephen Colbert. Elon Musk would be fascinating. He has some pretty out there ideas. Hopefully it wouldn’t make his Tesla shares plummet by coming to my dinner party.

“Schnitzel is my favourite with roast potatoes. I’m a meat and three veg kind of person. I don’t eat chocolate, have never liked it, so there would be pavlova or apple crumble for dessert.

“And a nice American pale ale like Panhead Supercharger – which keeps winning craft beer awards, and a nice pinot.”

With no other lawyers in the family, Zane took professional career advice before going to university. “I always did English subjects at school. Mum took me to a career adviser in Hamilton in year 11 and they said ‘go study law and do a BA in Wellington’.

“I did exactly as they told me and it worked out fantastically. Now I really enjoy the law side of it more than I thought I would. And I am enjoying practising more than I enjoyed university. It’s working very well.

“There’s no Plan B for an alternative career. I’ll stick with being a lawyer for now. Or an author otherwise.

“I don’t have a legal ambition as such but I would like to be able to look back on my career and realise I did some good and helped people. And made a difference.

“You want to be able to reflect and see that your life’s work had positive meanings. Rather than ultimately ending up somewhere, I’d rather be happy with what I’ve done.”

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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