New Zealand Law Society - High Country hunter/fisher swaps Shortland Street for outdoor paradise

High Country hunter/fisher swaps Shortland Street for outdoor paradise

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To describe Michael Walker – who moved to Queenstown after six years prosecuting with Auckland Crown solicitors Meredith Connell - as an outdoors bloke requires further clarification.

Now in-house counsel with the Queenstown and Lakes District Council (QLDC), Michael says he has had to adjust to a number of different areas of law he hadn't looked at for a while.

Michael Richard (Michael) Walker
Entry to law
Graduated LLB, BCom from Otago University in 2009. Admitted in 2009. 
In-house Counsel at Queenstown and Lakes District Council. 
Speciality area
Michael Walker
Michael Walker

At Meredith Connell he prosecuted more than 35 jury trials and describes his last assignment - appearing with Kieran Raftery in the successful prosecution of Tony Robertson for the rape and murder of Blessie Gotingco - as "a big milestone" in his career.

"I'm only 7 years into what is probably a 30-year career." 

"I've never seen a trial like it, and the appeal process…

"Working with Kieran in trials in my last two years at Meredith Connell was too good a learning experience to give up…

"The change to Queenstown has been really interesting and different – great - and probably the change I needed … You need to keep learning…"

With what he describes as "an enormous range of sporting interests", he has been heavily involved in multi sports adventure racing – including doing the annual Coast to Coast race "seriously" for a number of years during his university and legal career.

His best result of finishing second in the two-day event was a springboard to do some adventure racing in New Zealand and abroad.

"Adventure racing is quite exciting, it involves a team of four with a male and female component and races span from 12 hours to five days, sometimes a week…

 "You sleep about an hour a day between 4 and 5 in the morning … there is an enormous navigational component and often get maps released the night before the race so you're frantically mapping out the course, which includes running, cycling, kayaking…"

Michael also competes in the New Zealand Godzone premier adventure race – covering 500km in seven days of kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, running, trekking, abseiling and mountaineering.

[He gave up the Godzone race for two years while working on murder trials].

"It is completely unsupported … Everyone gets a 100 litre bin to put all their gear and food in for the whole race…

"Queenstown is ideal for this stuff … The new job has allowed me to do a lot of what I like doing outside the law – including moving back to this end of the country after six and a half years in Auckland…"

While at Meredith Connell he ran the New York marathon in 2013, guiding  Meredith Connell colleague Brett Tantrum in his wheelchair.

"Meredith's supported and gave a lot of freedom for these endeavours…

"In Queenstown it's more recreational than adventure-based … On the hit list at the moment my fiancée Anna Southwell, who is an associate at Lane Neave in Queenstown, and I are planning a ten hour adventure run over Motatapu from Wanaka to Arrowtown…

"Life is pretty social at the moment; after work it's touch on Monday, cricket on Wednesday…

"I'm an intermittent television viewer, keep abreast of the news, like Blindspot, Broadchurch, Happy Valley and I'm a big fan of the Hunters Club…"

A keen high country hunter for tahr and chamois, Michael's hunting buddy and colleague Anto Hall is the QLDC principal enforcement officer and a star of the Hunters Club series.

"I've been nagging him for a celebrity appearance on the show but he reckons no-one else would get a word in…

"I bought my favourite rifle from Anto – a Winchester Model 70 in .270 calibre … We spend a lot of time fly fishing and hunting together – it's handy to have your own personal guide…

"I'm reading The People Smuggler: The True Story of Ali Al Jenabi and my 2015 favourite was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.

"I was forced to play the piano as a child – my mother is a great piano player - but I did not pick up the gene and am not musical…

"Anna and I bought a house in Arrowtown where we live with our dog Barrett – like the gun - a German shorthaired pointer we re-homed from a Christchurch gun dealer…"

[Specialist .50 calibre Barrett sniper rifles (the Barrett Light Fifty) came on the market in 1982, proving popular with the IRA in their sniper campaign against the British armed forces in Northern Ireland. Various models are in use among the military and for long-range target shooting out to 2,500 metres]

From a legal family – his father is a lawyer in Invercargill, his uncle is a law professor at Melbourne's La Trobe University (now working in Qatar), his sister is a lawyer in Melbourne and with legal cousins "in most directions", Michael came to law by a process of elimination.

"I was more of an English and history boy than a numbers man … I could see that law was a well regarded base degree and not one you necessarily needed to practice…

"I didn't really enjoy studying at university but I think you are defined as a lawyer by the lawyers you work around when you begin to practise … I think I was extremely spoilt with the calibre of lawyers at Meredith Connell and the wide range of practice…

"My Toyota HiLux 3 litre turbo gets us up the skifield and to my fly fishing spots … I like remoteness … My favourite rivers are Caples and Glaisnock…

"Caples is probably the most magnificent river in the country…

"If I wasn't a lawyer I would probably be a fly fishing guide and back country ski guide in winter…

"But I have no thoughts of giving it up - I'm only seven years into what is probably a 30-year career…"

[At this point a final call for Michael to board his plane to Wellington for a continuing profession development session, cut short further gun chatter.] 

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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