Chapman Tripp nabs construction law expert in time for the “brink” of NZ boom

by Sophie Schroder11 Jul 2014
Chapman Tripp has announced that construction law expert Hamish Bolland has joined the firm from Allen & Overy’s projects team in Dubai where he spent almost six years advising on large scale projects in the Middle East.

Bolland, a senior associate, joined the firm’s construction & major projects team this week. His appointment helps the firm build on its global construction expertise.

The Christchurch-born lawyer says it’s an exciting time to come back to New Zealand and be involved in the industry while the country is “on the brink” of its largest construction boom in 40 years.

“I think to a large extent the boom is being driven by the Christchurch rebuild,” he tells NZ Lawyer. “Then on the residential side there is a need for housing in cities like Auckland, and depending on which political party is in power there are also a number of infrastructure PPPs in the pipeline…it’s going to keep the lawyers busy.”

Bolland made the decision to move back to New Zealand after a six year stint in the Middle East for a number of reasons, including the birth of his son and a desire to raise him and put him through school here.

“As much as I enjoyed my experience in the Middle East, we decided to take the next step both in terms of career and family back in New Zealand,” he says.

This happily coincided with a very interesting time in the New Zealand construction market.

In terms of potential future challenges in the industry, it will be interesting to see how larger law firms compete for the multitude of PPP construction projects and the effect that will have on fees, Bolland says.

He’s unsure whether longstanding relationships some firms have with the government in regards to infrastructure projects will overpower the highly competitive market.

“Obviously resources are another challenge – are there enough people in the market with the expertise to actually do the work? I think that’s why firms are looking overseas to try and recruit people back.”

This can be tricky, says Bolland, because if the candidate doesn't already have a reason to return, the low wage market means a move often doesn’t make sense financially.

He says that joining Chapman Tripp was an attractive offering due to the firm's success, not only in construction and major projects, but across the board. 

He also connected well with the firm’s head of construction & major projects Brian Clayton, who has spent time in Dubai and has an oil and gas background. Bolland was interested to learn how Clayton had returned and applied his skillset here.

And although Dubai was Bolland's home while abroad, 95% of his work was actually carried out in Saudi Arabia, with the remainder in Oman.

Now dry in oil, Dubai simply provided a nice base for him and his family thanks to the developed infrastructure, good schooling and tourist-friendly culture.

This is not the case in Saudi Arabia, he says.

“The real challenge facing the GCC (Gulf Corporation Council) now will be using the oil revenue to develop the infrastructure of these countries. In recent years, the focus has been on downstream oil and gas projects - mostly refineries and petrochemical production facilities," he says. “However, more recently there has been a growing trend towards social infrastructure such as school, hospitals and public transport PPPs. It continues to be an exciting time for project lawyers in the Middle East.”

Bolland’s recent experience in the Middle East includes:
  • Acting for the project company procuring a US$6-7b oil refinery in Duqm, Sultanate of Oman
  • Acting for the commercial lenders and ECAs to a USD4-5b phosphate mine and downstream petrochemical complex in northern Saudi Arabia
  • Acting for the project company procuring a US$800m integrated caustic soda and ethylene dichloride petrochemical complex in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, and
  • Acting for the commercial lenders and ECAs to a 190,000m³/day independent water project in Al Ghubrah, Sultanate of Oman.
“I’m looking forward to applying the skills I’ve gained internationally to the variety of projects I’ll be working on here,” he says.