By Warwick Cambridge
Russell Ibbotson died on 18 December 2014 aged 62.
Russell had a long career in the Southland and Queenstown region and over that time made a significant contribution to the legal profession. I had the privilege of knowing Russell since our days together at Southland Boys High School and at Otago University and as a legal partner for some 33 years.
Russell graduated from Otago University in 1977 and was admitted to the Bar on 10 December of that year. He first practised law in Auckland with Sellar Bone and Partners where he undertook a wide variety of work.
Some years later to returned to Invercargill, primarily because of his passion for the outdoors, and in particular hunting, shooting and fishing in Fiordland and Stewart Island. This passion for the wilderness and outdoors never diminished and is amply demonstrated in his catalogue of wildlife photography.
Russell joined the firm of Preston Evans Noble and Early in 1981 and become a partner in the Invercargill office in 1985. At that time his work included prosecuting for the Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Transport, New Zealand Police and the Crown and included appearances in the District Court, High Court, and the Court of Appeal.
Russell was always meticulous in his preparation, presentation (and let's not forget, his appearance) when he appeared before any Tribunal or Court.
Over the last 20 years of his practice he concentrated more on issues that had a real conservation element, for example advising on Reviews of the National Park Management Plans and Conservation Management strategies, advising New Zealand Fish and Game Council, New Zealand Royal Forest and Bird Society and the Department of Conservation in its review of the Fiordland National Park Management Plan. His interest in this area of law was not confined, however, simply to the Mainland as he also acted in matters relating to the Sub-Antarctic Islands Conservation Management Plan Review and the Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) Management Plan.
All of the above are a far cry from what was no doubt perceived as the exciting times appearing as Junior Counsel to the then Crown Solicitor Graeme Noble in the famous Alister Barr bank robbery at Lumsden.
Russell moved to Queenstown in 2004 to establish the Queenstown office of Preston Russell Law and was known in the Wakatipu Basin for his expertise in planning and environmental work, including appearances at the Planning Tribunal and Environment Court.
None of this hard legal work prevented Russell from contributing to the community where, like many in the profession, he involved himself significantly in assisting or being involved in a number of community groups including the YMCA, New Zealand Clay Target Association and - interesting enough given his conservation bent - the New Zealand Jet Boat Association. In fact this was often a topic of some mirth how these two interests could be reconciled.
Russell was also a founding member of the Forest Hill Foundation which is a Trust established to create a mainland island from a forest scenic reserve around a 540 ha forest.
Russell also served as a Southland Conservation Board member appointed by the Minister of Conservation, serving three terms with this Board as a member or as its Chairman.
To my mind Russell was always one of life’s gentlemen and I know others share this view. He cared always about people and would always give his fullest attention to his client’s interests. He always believed the best things in people. He was always generous, caring and always true and faithful to all those who knew him for whom he acted. He was also immaculate in his conduct and his personal presentation, having an extensive wardrobe, a ready smile, chuckle and helpful comment.
Russell served the profession with great distinction and will always be fondly remembered by all who knew him.
Russell is survived by his wife Sally and his two children - Thom who shares his passion for hunting, and Prue his interest in photography.
“The Hunter is home from the Hills”.
This obituary was first published in the Otago branch of the New Zealand Law Society's newsletter Cur Adv Vult on 27 March 2015.