“It really is an exciting time to be a litigator in Christchurch”: Hot List lawyer, Jared Ormsby

by Sophie Schroder02 Jul 2014
Jared Ormsby says playing a pivotal role in the well-documented dispute over the ChristChurch Cathedral has been one of the highlights of his career.
The Wynn Williams executive chairman and partner in the firm’s litigation & dispute resolution team acted for the Anglican Church in the Court of Appeal and High Court in relation to the deconstruction of the cathedral, which has now been replaced by the symbolic “Cardboard Cathedral” after the devastating earthquakes that destroyed much of the city.
Ormsby, who is also an advisor for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), told NZ Lawyer that working on the case was important because the fate of the iconic cathedral was such an important issue to the future of Christchurch and public opinion was considerably divided.
“It is immensely satisfying to be able to succeed in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. On a personal level I was pleased to be able to assist the trustees of the Cathedral Trust who were in an extremely difficult situation because of the scale of destruction caused to many of their buildings,” he says. “On a professional level being able to develop legal arguments and have the Courts agree with you is something that all lawyers are pleased to have happen.”
Ormsby says he was able to deal with the pressure of the divisive public issue on top of the personal stress caused by the earthquakes because of an ability that most lawyers develop to “put aside” external problems and focus on the actual issues of the cases in front of them.
Major challenges in the cathedral dispute included being able to identify what the terms of the Cathedral Trust were, which meant going back into significant historical records. There were also changes through provincial ordinances to the Trust over the years involved.
The team then embarked on a reasonably protracted dispute as to the range and extent of the trustee powers and what was intended under the Trust Deed.
Ormsby was delighted that the decision evidently came down in favour of the Church.
“From my perspective the ChristChurch Cathedral was really lost as a result of the earthquakes, and while change is sometimes hard to deal with, for all sorts of reasons the construction of a new cathedral symbolises the strength of Christchurch and hope for the future. I am excited about that.”
Many people still don’t realise that this new Transitional Cathedral – often referred to as the “Cardboard Cathedral” – is in fact a permanent building he says, adding that the design and construction is to the highest standards by world-class architects.
“The fact that the Church was able to get on and do it so quickly following the earthquakes meant it was really one of the first symbols of being able to move forward in Christchurch.”
Ormsby says litigation work during the events in Christchurch, which was “significant and really factually interesting”, has enriched him as a lawyer.

He is currently involved in litigation relating to the Land Use Recovery Plan and advising on other recovery related issues. He say this work together with other significant trust, Iwi, and commercial litigation, means there is always something stimulating being dealt with.