Deborah heads the Māori business team advising clients on legal, policy and strategic issues relating to Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi. This includes Treaty settlement matters, legislative drafting, public policy and legislative reforms, Māori land and resource development, iwi and hapū corporate structuring, consolidation and development. Deborah’s clients include central and local government, Crown entities, private sector, Māori land owners and iwi and hapū collective bodies.

Deborah’s primary role for most of her clients is to provide legal and strategic advice as to how they can manage major transfer projects, strategic and project planning, and to devise new and creative solutions to complex or difficult problems.  

Deborah has expert knowledge of the law regarding the environment and natural resources, conservation, public lands regulation, public works, marine and coastal regulation and spatial planning. She has worked on coastal marine projects, new regimes for management of offshore islands, projects for native forest, exotic forestry projects, applications for Marine and Coastal orders and has undertaken numerous major property transactions for settling iwi and government agencies in the context of Treaty settlements.

Deborah has been invited by overseas governments and agencies to address Ministers, judges and advisory panels on these issues and be part of public funded research teams investigating and reporting on management and protection of indigenous knowledge, coastal marine management and reform of conservation law to enhance biodiversity and indigenous peoples’ involvement.

Admission date: 1979


Deborah has advised: 

  • On the landmark sale for $52.7m of Tongariro-Rangipo prison land to iwi under the 2008 CNI Forestry Settlement. The complex negotiations required expert knowledge of the Treaty settlement, understanding of environmental sensitivities and a view of the operational requirements of the corrections facility.  
  • The Crown on the transfer of properties to Crown entities. The realignment included the state housing portfolio and energy and resource enterprises involving over 70,000 properties valued at over $1b.  
  • Te Rua o te Moko Trust on a joint venture dairy operation involving multiple Maori land blocks and potential acquisition of Crown owned block.
  • Whetu Consulting on legal controls over retention and access rights by Crown Research institutions and other bodies to matauranga Māori supplied to the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge (MBIE).
  • The New Zealand Law Society submission on the Te Ture Whenua Maori Bill, working with the Federation of Māori Authorities on the Bill, which included the preparation and presentation of the submission to the Ministerial Advisory Group of Te Puni Kokiri.
  • The teams that provided legal and strategic advice on Treaty land transfer projects, including Te Atiawa, Ngāruahine, Hineuru, Raukawa and Ngati Toa, together valued at over $600m. The projects included the acquisition of land or rights to purchase land valued over $500m, 7,000 Crown properties, over 50,000ha of forest, Landcorp farms, and other Crown agency acquisitions including leasebacks.



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