Grown-up “farm kid” Tara Hurley has the challenges of raising two sets of twin daughters while working remotely from her Rotorua home for her Auckland employer.
Senior Associate Tara recently returned to work at Martelli McKegg – where she has been for 10 years - after her second spell of maternity leave.
Tara and fluent Māori-speaking partner Brook Grant, who is a financial consultant with GHA in Rotorua and previously a financial commentator on TVNZ’s Te Karere programme, have two sets of identical twin girls – handy as weights to keep Mum fit.
- Tara Marain (Tara) Hurley
- Entry to law
- Graduated LLB from Otago University in 2002. Admitted in 2002.
- Senior associate at Auckland firm Martelli McKegg, based in Rotorua.
- Speciality area
- Relationship property and family trusts.
“I have a close connection with Martelli McKegg and always kept in close touch with them. When I confirmed I was not coming back to Auckland one of the partners I have been working with for a decade said ‘let’s put a proposal together for you to work remotely’.
“And that’s what we did. We made sure it fitted my needs and the needs of the firm and that’s what I’m currently doing. So far it’s fantastic, I’m loving it and it seems to be working for them.
“It’s ground-breaking in a way, a bit of a trial for Martelli McKegg and wonderful for me.
“Because I have been with the firm for a long time I know a lot of the older clients and the work. I can provide reassurance and continuity. For me it is working incredibly well.
“Coming back from maternity leave this time I had not planned on returning until my younger babies were a bit older. There is a lot going on in my house with four wee girls. But the opportunity was too good to turn down to stay with the firm that I love.”
Brook and Tara met while studying at Otago University. “I stayed for holidays and we travelled round the South Island. Otago is my favourite holiday place in the South Island. My favourite spot in New Zealand though is definitely Ohope, where Brook’s parents have a true Kiwi bach. We cram in every summer and have the best time.”
When Kennedy and Mila – now aged four and getting ready to start school later this year – came along, Tara and Brook were in Auckland and Tara took 12 months maternity leave, before returning to work three, four, then five days a week.
“Then, nearly two years ago, I had a very nice surprise when I found out I was expecting my second set of twins.
“I stayed working in Auckland through the pregnancy, and the older girls were going to kindergarten round the corner, but we realised we needed to get out of Auckland and get some family support.
“We looked at opportunities so we could re-locate to Rotorua to be closer to Brook’s family. I finished work on March 31st last year, we sold our Auckland house on April 2nd, moved two days later and I had our second set of identical twins, Aishling and Keeva, four weeks after that in Rotorua. They are 14 months old now.”
Kennedy and Mila go to Pukeroa Oruawhata Kohanga Reo and are being raised bilingual. “Our move to Rotorua has been hugely beneficial for having whānau support as well as being able to provide our girls with a greater immersion and understanding of their Māori heritage.
“I have a nanny who comes in to the house for the hours I work, three part days a week. I hang out with her and the baby girls for a little while in the morning before heading off upstairs to my office.”
With a house big enough to have space for a home office, the firm set up an office the same as it would be if sitting in an office in Auckland. Tara uses Skype and video conferencing to connect with clients and flies to Auckland one day every two months for face-to-face contact with other lawyers in the firm and see clients who prefer to see her in person.
“It’s more about keeping in touch with younger staff and doing a bit of training with younger staff – and letting the partners know I am still here, because remote working can be a bit strange.
“Most of my clients are Auckland-based but we are starting to talk about getting a presence in the local market for me, and how we are going to do that, but I won’t bring clients back to our home.”
Her Dad Noel and Mum Marain – one of seven children from Sligo in Ireland - were dairy farmers in Otorohanga, where they now have a sharemilker on the family farm. Marain – who is chair of the Otorohanga Kiwiana Project - has a women’s wear store in the town, and Noel – president of the local golf club - also does some truck driving.
“Mum and Dad met while Dad was on his OE, they got married in Ireland and moved to New Zealand to start dairy farming in Otorohanga.
“I was a real farm kid growing up. My dad, uncle and grandad taught my older sister and I to ride a two-wheel motor bike, drive a tractor and ride a horse well before we were in double digits so we could help them on the farm, which we happily did.”
Tara says she didn’t want to go to school when she turned five. “My Mum or Dad would stand at the bus stop with me and my sister Natasha to make sure I got on the bus, but I would jump off at the next stop and run home because I was convinced I needed to help Dad on the farm rather than go to school.
“In the end they devised a system where Natasha would sit on me until we got far enough from our house that she trusted I wouldn’t jump off and run home. I grew to love school and went to Otorohanga primary before going to Otorohanga College – where all the Hurley family before me had gone.
“Otorohanga is a good little town.” says Tara.
The bigger Russian boxer
“In a past life Brook and I were extensive travellers and spent a lot of time overseas living and working, including a three-year working holiday.
“We went to South America and taught English in Brazil for a few months, which was very special. I worked at Lovells – now Hogan Lovells - in London and also worked in Dublin.”
When in London Tara and four colleagues from Hogan Lovells trained for 12 weeks for a charity boxing match to raise money for at-risk children living on a housing estate.
“A week before the fight the trainers told me I was going to fight a bona fide boxer because they didn’t have the right numbers to pair me up with another charity boxer.
“My opponent was a hugely impressive Russian woman at least twice my size. It was terrifying and I won’t lie – that first hit I took hurt, a lot. But I survived three, three-minute rounds, got a few hits in myself and came out with a technical draw.
“Brook and I would typically work for six months and travel for three. We went all through western Europe and parts of the Middle East. On the way back home we went through East Africa, where I spent two months volunteering at St Jude’s school in Tanzania.
“It is an amazing school with a mission to educate disadvantaged, bright students from the Arusha District to become moral and intellectual leaders in their country. I learnt far more from spending time at the school, living in a very poor area of Tanzania, than I could ever have hoped to teach.”
Before heading overseas the couple borrowed Tara’s Dad’s ute and spent a couple of weeks on a camping trip around Northland.
“Since being back in New Zealand for the last 10 years, we have been to Cuba before the kids came along, and around Rotorua it is about getting out to the lakes and forests with the kids at the weekend.”
A former competitive horse rider, hockey player and netball player, and with a brother-in-law who is a personal trainer, Tara settles now for home exercise sessions with her girls. “They make reasonably good weights and I keep fit dancing around the house with them – the older girls are always showing me new moves.”
Pathway to law
With older sister Natasha, who was a dairy farmer, working in an accountancy firm in Otorohanga, there are no other lawyers in the family, and Tara says she fell into law by default.
“I was enrolled to do physiotherapy at Otago and changed it in the first week to law. I always wanted to be a vet coming from a good farming background, but didn’t want to be a scientist. There was no other great desire or family legacy to be a lawyer but I must say Professor Mark Henaghan was pretty inspiring.
“I love music and there is always singing and dancing in this house – it’s our favourite pastime. I have wide musical tastes and am a fan of local music. Tiki Taane is a good friend and his music and all the stuff he produces with Shapeshifter is wonderful.
“Years ago I used to play the piano. Brook – known around home as papa – plays the acoustic guitar, but he’s humble and quiet and plays for us.
“I used to read. Last week I picked up the first book since late in my last pregnancy but can’t remember the name of it. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and lawyer Atticus Finch’s character is probably my favourite and has been my favourite since the sixth form. It’s ironic I ended up in the law.
“We watch a bit of Netflix – Suits is my favourite, and Orange is the New Black.
“We have a 60kg bull mastiff called Harlem, as in the U2 song Angel of Harlem. We got her as a puppy six weeks before we found out we were pregnant with the first set of twins. I didn’t realise we were having twins when we got her. She is the first baby and now she’s at the end of a long line of girls in our house.
“We have a Toyota Highlander, which I love, which we got before we found out about the second set of twins. And no, we didn’t want to get a mini-van.
“I can fit everyone in with four car seats in the Highlander, but the dog doesn’t fit in. We also have a Subaru Legacy and Harlem travels in the back of that with papa and the kids with me. We have to take two cars to take the dog.
“Serena Williams would be an amazing dinner guest. In summer we would have a barbecue with whole host of salads - we have a massive vege garden. And in winter we’d have roast lamb or roast chicken, with a cab sav or a shiraz.”
Out of her comfort zone
“I love what I do but I don’t think my career is that spectacular to have a memorable moment. There is no massive fanfare as there might be with a litigator’s career.
“I have had some special clients, some of whom have passed, and some of whose children I now act for. It’s a steady and personal practice where I have been lucky enough to work with some wonderful people and learn from them and having the privilege of learning a lot about their lives and their personal circumstances.
“That relationship of trust and confidence that they have in me and I have in them in order to best make things work for their legal needs is crucial and I don’t take that for granted.
“If I wasn’t a lawyer I think I would back myself a bit more and do veterinary, but not physio. Possibly international journalism, but that wouldn’t work with the family situation.
“Growing up in Otorohanga, and head girl at Otorohanga College, everybody I knew all went to Waikato University. I had great friends and everything was cruisey but I wanted a change.
“My older sister went to Waikato and that was the natural progression. I deliberately didn’t want to go to Waikato and end up coming home to Otorohanga every weekend and staying in the same circle.
“I was keen to try a new experience and the best way to do that was to go as far away as I could and put myself in a new challenge, and a new situation.
“I loved it at Otago. I hadn’t been to the South Island before and it was not that I wanted to go to the law school because I had not enrolled there.
“I wanted to be brave and try something out of my comfort zone.”