“Economically speaking the region of Taranaki has always been in strong health, at least stronger than most regions,” says Rajan Rai.
“This is due to the rural sector. The farming payouts are strong so the farmers have a lot of disposable income and they invest it. And the oil and gas industry is still going strong.”
When it comes to provincial New Zealand, the economic spine is traditionally linked to farming – in Taranaki’s case a strong dairy farming sector, and with that comes a lot of work for rural-based lawyers.
“To be a rural lawyer you do need to have an interest in farming, because if you’re not then it probably isn’t worth it,” says Robert England.
“The more you know about farming the better lawyer you will be. If you know how a farm actually works on a day-to-day basis you are going to be that much better as a relationship property lawyer when it comes to giving advice to the farmer than if you didn’t.”
However not all work is done just in Taranaki. Mr England says clients who started off with small dairy farms like to invest off the farm to balance their investment strategies, which includes everything from buying commercial property in the Waikato to extra farmland in Southland.
“Our clients are all over New Zealand in the literal and commercial sense from Cape Reinga to the Bluff. And Taranaki is a lot like Southland in the respect that a lot of clients from the rural sector will invest outside of the provinces which opens our work beyond the borders of South Taranaki.”
Alongside a strong agriculture industry, Taranaki is also home to the nation’s oil and natural gas production and is estimated to generate $nz 2.5 billion in GDP for the country, making it the most profitable Taranaki industry in terms of GDP.
While Alice Tocher works in other areas, including rural law, the majority of her work these days revolves around the oil and gas industry.
“Oil and gas is dealing with much of what I already did in Wellington in property law, but in a much more specific industry. There is that huge focus around liabilities which has been a good area for me to sink my teeth into as well,” says Ms Tocher.
“Just being willing to try areas of practice that you originally thought you might not be initially interested in is a huge step in a place like Taranaki due to its unique economy.”
A secondment opportunity with two companies gave Ms Tocher an in-depth understanding of the oil and gas business and as a result she now helps manage a team at Govett Quilliam focusing specifically on the industry.
“Those secondments meant that as a lawyer I was being thrown into the deep end of an industry that uses its own type of language. A wave of jargon, abbreviations and anagrams would be hurled in your direction every day,” she says.
“I was the only legal person on the ground in Taranaki, working closely with a legal team of 30 based in Sydney. So I found it interesting with how Australian legal teams did things in comparison to New Zealand legal teams.”