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Mark Kelly’s time as President of AMINZ has just concluded. We ask him about his highlights and key challenges from the last two years.

Kia ora Mark, and congratulations on a successful two years as President of AMINZ! How are you feeling after crossing the finish line? 

Thank you. Mixed emotions for me. I will miss working with the AMINZ Council, and Office Team. They are a great bunch. I am very proud of what we have achieved. But I am also looking forward to new challenges! 

You began your time as President in August 2020, as the onset of Covid began changing the way we work. How did Covid shape your time as President? 

Covid was, and continues to be, a challenge for AMINZ, and its members, as it has been for so many. Communication is central to our organisation, and to our day jobs. Modes of communication have obviously changed during the pandemic, particularly during lockdowns. AMINZ was fortunate, in that we had already made the move to a virtual office. But we had to make major changes to our education and collegial offerings, to do as much as we could/needed to online. Happily, we did manage to have our stunning 2021 Conference in-person in Rotorua, just a week or so before a four month lockdown! 

AMINZ has a very strong reputation for education. The AMINZ Associateship programme is a relatively new AMINZ education initiative. Where does this programme fit in?

Yes, AMINZ has worked hard, and set high standards over many years, so that its educational offerings are well-respected. Bankside’s Royden Hindle, another former President, and the longtime Director of Professional Studies, deserves a lot of the modern credit for this. He has been tireless, selfless, and wise, as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) teacher and examiner. 

The Associateship programme arose after Massey University stopped teaching, and accrediting, ADR. That meant we needed a new pathway course to AMINZ Associate status, particularly for non-lawyers. The Associateship programme was developed in-house, and then brought to the market in collaboration with the good folk at the College of Law. It is a thorough, practical, and well-researched introduction to ADR. I am delighted to see it now doing well.

You have had a particular focus on diversity, both in membership and the wider practice. Can you tell us more about this? 

The ADR profession is a wonderful one, full of kind, interested, interesting and intelligent people. But, particularly at the senior and commercial ends, it remains too male, stale and pale. That may be the fault of our forebears, but it is our problem to fix. AMINZ has put diversity improvement at the heart of its strategic goals. During my time as President, I was proud to be part of a number of initiatives on this, including:

There is a lot more to do, but I am confident that AMINZ will continue to make progress.

What were some of the other highlights of your time as President?

As mentioned, the AMINZ Council, and Office Team were a pleasure to work with. I was lucky to have such great folk around me. I was very proud to be able to arrange for Paulette Brown to address our 2021 Conference. Paulette was the first African American woman President of the American Bar Association. She is also a leading civil rights lawyer. Her address, on diversity, was one of the most inspiring I have been lucky enough to see.

I was also proud to lead AMINZ’s input on MBIE’s work to develop a standing dispute resolution mechanism for natural disaster disputes. This is a concept which I have a particular interest in (and have written on), after mediating many CES insurance claims.

I co-created Te Tohu Ngākau Nui: The Big Heart Awards, to recognise the contributions to AMINZ by its many volunteers. It was a pleasure to be involved in that, and to see the awards made to some truly wonderful folk.

Most of all though, what was best about the role was getting a greater insight into all the extraordinary work that AMINZ members do across New Zealand. They are a special bunch, doing special work.

What’s next for you Mark? 

Professionally, it will be more mediating. The days that were AMINZ days are now booked! But I will also stay involved with AMINZ, supporting where/however I can. And I really look forward to seeing what terrific things the new Council, who will be so well led by the outstanding Nicole Smith, will do. 

Personally, I think my ever-supportive family will probably be pleased not to hear me rabbiting on excitedly about AMINZ this and that quite so much! I have also put my name down to waddle another off-road race, and may have time to get a bit fitter. Which animal is the next quickest after the tortoise?