Riots and reforms

by Hannah Norton01 Jul 2015
The rioting and fires of Tonga a decade ago are becoming a distant memory, the new managing partner of a top tier firm says.

Leading Wellington-based regulatory lawyer Andy Nicholls – who has this week been appointed managing partner of Chapman Tripp – has just returned from a trip there, working with the Government of Tonga on some infrastructure investment they are looking to facilitate.

“It’s an interesting time to be up there, because it’s the King’s coronation this week; so it’s a very busy and frenetic time,” he told NZLawyer.

“They have to get ready for that, as well as trying to keep the machinery of the government going.”

But, he said, the sovereign state was in a “good space”.

“I was up there about a decade ago doing some work on a job when the riots broke out.
“So seeing from where they were a decade ago – when there was rioting and fires in the main street – to where they are now, where they’ve got a new Government that is quite energised and looking to get things done and making quite a bit of progress, was quite rewarding, helping with that.”

In New Zealand, a key focus for him is the refresh of the regulation of utilities happening this year.

“The Commerce Commission is refreshing the rulebook that it uses to regulate utilities; and that includes electricity line companies, gas pipelines and the airports.

“So that is really important for them, and it’s important for the Commerce Commission. And it’s quite a challenge to strike the right balance between improving the rules, and providing a certain and stable environment for those companies to operate and invest. So that’s quite a hard conversation for both sides of the argument to have.”

Changes at Chapman Tripp

Nicholls' appointment was announced on Monday.

“I’m excited. It’s a good chance to contribute to the leadership of the firm, and get involved with the direction of the firm for the next five years,” he said.

“It’s also a good chance to contribute to the leadership role that we play here in Wellington; and the way the business community is engaging with each other and local government and central government on growth in Wellington.”

The appointment was part of a raft of changes at leadership level at the firm.

“This year has seen a transition from the management team that we’ve had for a while – so this is a transition period. 

Andrew Poole will be the chief executive partner in Auckland and I’ll be working with him. It’s not a full time role, so I’ll still be working with my clients on their issues... So I have a chance to really transition into the role. It’s a very staged process to make sure it’s a well-managed and smooth transition.”