Hon Christopher Finlayson QC


Christopher Finlayson was born and educated in Wellington. He graduated from Victoria University with a BA in Latin and a LLM.After his studies, he worked in Brandons (later Brandon Brookfield) from 1980-1990, and was a partner in that firm from 1986 to 1990. He then joined Bell Gully where he was a partner in the firm’s Wellington litigation department from 1990-2002 when he went to the bar. He was for many years involved in commercial litigation, including competition law cases in the years after the enactment of the Commerce Act 1986. He acted for a wide variety of clients, including the British Government, the Sisters of Mercy, the ANZ, Brierley Investments. In 2013 the then Prime Minister Sir John Key made Chris a QC.

In the period 1985-2005, he served the profession on the NZLS Continuing Legal Education Committee, the Council of Law Reporting and the Rules Committee of the High Court. He also taught a variety of subjects in the Law Faculty of Victoria University for many years. He was a foundation author of McGechan on Procedure and the founding editor of the Procedure Reports of New Zealand.

Chris has always had a very strong interest in the arts and over the years has served on a variety of arts organisations including the New Zealand String Quartet Trust, Circa Theatre, the Arts Foundation, the Arts Board of Creative New Zealand (which he chaired from 1998-2001) and the NZSO Foundation. He is now a trustee of the Adam Foundation and the chair of the Fundraising Committee for the Button Memorial which will honour the millions of children lost in the Holocaust.

In 2005, Chris entered Parliament as an Opposition List MP. After the election of John Key’s Government in 2008 he entered Cabinet where he served for 9 years in the following portfolios:

  • Attorney-General 2008-2017
  • Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations 2008-2017
  • Minister for Culture and Heritage 2008-2014
  • Minister in charge of the GCSB and SIS 2014-2017
  • Associate Minister of Maori Development 2011-2017

During his time as a Minister, Chris:

  • Negotiated 59 deeds of settlement with iwi
  • Was responsible for reforming the Foreshore and Seabed Legislation
  • Formed the Government Legal Network
  • Reformed all legislation relating to intelligence and security
  • Was responsible for a number of legal reforms including the law of limitation and all law relating to legislation
  • Appeared for New Zealand in the International Court of Justice in the Hague in 2013 in a case brought by Australia against Japan over whaling the southern oceans (New Zealand intervened)
  • Appeared in the Security Council in 2015 to discuss terrorism (this was the first year of New Zealand’s 2 year term on the Security Council)
  • Reformed most of New Zealand’s cultural legislation, including the Arts Council Act and the Historic Places Legislation
  • Was responsible for the return to New Zealand of the famous Motunui Panels which had been the subject of extensive litigation in England in the 1980’s – see Attorney-General for New Zealand v Ortiz [1984] AC1, a favourite case for all students of the Conflict of Laws.