New Zealand Law Society - Knee job keeps award-winning MBIE lawyer out of saddle

Knee job keeps award-winning MBIE lawyer out of saddle

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Iain Michael (Iain) Feist
Upper Hutt. 
Entry to law
Graduated LLB(Hons) from Victoria University 2003. Admitted 2004. 
Senior solicitor at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Wellington. 
Speciality area
Building law, including earthquake and weathertightness issues.

After earlier building bike tracks in Portugal and recently winning an award for his work on Wellington's Makara Peak mountain bike network, Iain Feist might have enjoyed a celebratory spin – if he wasn't getting over knee surgery.

Iain's volunteer work with Makara Peak Supporters in Wellington recently won a CLANZ-Auckland University of Technology law school community contribution award and a $2,000 donation to the group.

The award is made to an in-house lawyer who has made an outstanding contribution to the community beyond their day job.

Iain has been involved in the group's governance, including securing scenic reserve status for the park, completing a memorandum of understanding with the Wellington City Council and developing short and medium term biodiversity/conservation and track plans.

A senior solicitor in the Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment for a year, Iain's career started with a two-year spell as a judges' clerk in the Wellington District Court.

"Straight out of law school that was interesting, that's for sure … Coming from the academic side into the hurly burly of the District Court and basic nuts and bolts stuff."

He spent four years with Parker & Associates before heading overseas in 2010 for a year.

First stop was working for a New Zealand company building bike tracks in Portugal and many other countries.

"They flew me there, paid accommodation, put me up in rural Portugal for a while and we got on with it … Rural Portugal is nice but not exactly filled with excitement."

He worked in the UK for a year but did not like London, did a bit more travelling and came home.

In Wellington Iain renewed his interest in the Makara Peak Supporters, formed in 1998.

Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park – with 40km of mainly hand-built track - is an award-winning purpose built bike park set in 250 hectares of bird filled native bush.

The supporters plan and oversee the development of the park and help restore native forest to create a world-class bike park with dual use cycling and walking tracks for all skill levels, in restored native bush.

"I was working mainly on the track side of things at first, then saw the broader aspect of what the park was involved in with its big conservation focus."

One of the supporters' current jobs is planning a kids' track – harder to do because it needs a "nice gradient, has to be wider and if they come off they don't have too far to fall…"

With a busy life centred round children aged two-and-a-half years and six months, Iain and wife - Payments NZ in-house lawyer Natalie Vaughan-Sanders – get on their bikes as much as they can. He has a bike for work and one for fun.

During his oversees stint, which included working for a year at London law firm Rosling King, Iain did a lot of biking in the UK, Wales and France – where he took advantage of French skifields opened up in summer for cyclists.

"That was great…Ten Kiwis met up in France for a couple of weeks in lovely laid back French villages… Biking until we were bored then hanging out in the sun…"

With parents keen mountain bikers, Iain was the youngest of three boys raised in an outdoors family and "dragged out mountain biking when I was 12…"

His postie Mum and technician Dad – now both retired – also got the family into tramping and skiing.

"We've skied the North Island and had a few seasons in North America, so we need to try the South Island – a big oversight…"

With his outside work and family life dedicated to mountain biking and skiing - not much of which he has done lately because of knee surgery – Iain is a fan of television's Game of Thrones and the second series of True Detective, starring Colin Farrell - "but no legal dramas…"

He is coy about his musical talents, which currently involves playing the ukelele, which his children like and respond to.

"Mainly I used to play the bass guitar… in a band… but not seriously… and when Natalie's brothers and cousins – who are very musical - come around we knock out a few tunes…

"The kids like jumping around to it. I enjoy anything I can play along to with a thumping bass… I don't want to say what we're into but the Rolling Stones would be safe…

"Outside work I don't read a lot these days, by the time the kids are in bed I'm pretty tired… Except for Wellington bike magazine Spoke, the mountain bikers' journal, which has great photography…

"I've got vague plans to knock off a few rail trails in the future, they are big distances to cover (for example, the Central Otago rail trail is 151 km) but it's good they are accessible and easier for more people…

"As long as you keep your mouth shut and don't swallow any bees…You learn that…Flies are unpleasant too…" 

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for several decades. He also writes the weekly Caseload column for the New Zealand Herald. Contact Jock at

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