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Christchurch Three Years On: Anglican Cathedral case a lightning rod

Christchurch’s Anglican Cathedral has proved a lightning rod for emotion about the rebuild of the city.

Law firm Wynn Williams has been at the forefront of the issue through its litigation and dispute resolution team. 

It handled the cathedral case on behalf of the Anglican Church. Jared Ormsby, executive chairman of the firm, and lawyer Jeremy Johnson successfully defended the church’s decision to deconstruct the cathedral.

The litigation and resource management teams also advised on the Land Use Recovery Plan developed by local authorities and recently approved by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

The earthquakes prompted the lawyers in the firm to think about the challenges of the new environment. 

As a result, Wynn Williams set up a specific Earthquake Recovery Group comprising partners from the firm’s practice groups to identify the needs of the city and residents. 

“It became clear that law firms and like-minded professionals had to find synergies and work together for the benefit of the city,” Mr Ormsby says. 

Insurance has become a big source of new work. The Wynn Williams’ insurance division led by Richard Johnstone has been at the forefront of earthquake claims litigation. It has dealt with commercial and residential claims for insurers as well as people pursuing claims. 

A significant amount of time has been spent on business interruption issues and material damage claims as well as educating the public on the need to understand policies and the importance of this type of insurance. 

Specialist commercial and property lawyers in the firm have been directly involved in development and retail leasing of new properties within the central city “frame” and the wider city. 

The earthquakes meant that standard leasing agreements needed to be reviewed and updated to enable greater certainty for landlords and tenants. 

Private home-owners devastated by the earthquakes have been a focus for the company.

While many firms migrated to the west of the city after the earthquakes, Wynn Williams set up its temporary head office in the eastern suburb of Shirley. 

This led to many red-zoned land owners seeking assistance from Annabel Sheppard, head of the private client team. 

Ms Sheppard was also involved in the work to finalise the demolition, sale and insurance settlements of the historic Cranmer Court buildings. 

The growing strength of the economy in Canterbury has led to the firm considering its strategic position and its decision to expand, with staff numbers growing from 60 to 90.

It has also prompted a move into the Auckland market to cater for more corporate work.

Wynn Williams now has three partners in Auckland, with another two expected to join in the coming months. 

Meanwhile, in Christchurch, the firm is now preparing to move back into the city in July to a new building, Wynn Williams House, that will be built to 180% of the new building standard. 

 

Mr Ormsby says it was critical to the partnership that it take a lead in moving back into the heart of the city in safe premises representing the new Chritchurch.

Read: the rest of the Christchurch Three Years On feature stories here