One of Tauranga's newest solicitors is celebrating after winning a coveted tertiary award.

Harris Tate solicitor John Delaney was announced as joint winner of the Environmental Law Prize for 2016 alongside Waiata Bell in Auckland.

Sponsored by Simpson Grierson, one of New Zealand's leading commercial law firms, the award recognised the student with the best overall mark in the University of Waikato's environmental law paper.

The pair were presented with a cheque for $1000 each at a recent function at the firm's Auckland office.


A "pleasantly surprised" Mr Delaney said environmental law was becoming increasingly important in modern society with issues that required sustainable and creative approaches.

"I studied environmental law because I had previously been involved in some large-scale mediations concerning resource consents and realised that it was an important area to have knowledge in," he said.

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"I'm grateful to Simpson Grierson for sponsoring the environmental law prize. The process to identify the recipients was robust and enjoyable, and added a sense of value and significance to the prize.

"I'm delighted to win it."

It capped off a whirlwind seven days for the 41-year-old after being admitted to the bar at a special ceremony at Tauranga High Court in front of his wife, children and parents - the culmination of a 15-year dream to become a solicitor.

After spending three years juggling work and studies while sacrificing precious family time as a mature student, he recently graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Laws. He was now a solicitor in the litigation team at Harris Tate, after joining last August as a law clerk.

"We are very proud of John jointly winning this award, and it shows the level of promise he has as a solicitor straight out of tertiary studies," said Harris Tate director Oliver Moorcroft.

"John has an extensive legal background and has seamlessly become a valued part of our team in his short time with the firm. We have no doubt he will develop into a top-class solicitor which is what we pride ourselves on here at Harris Tate."

Simpson Grierson had been sponsoring the University of Waikato's Environmental Law Prize since 1992.

Padraig McNamara, partner in Simpson Grierson's environment group, said the firm was committed to rewarding academic excellence.

"We are delighted to contribute to the development of talented people like Waiata and John, and wish them all the best for their futures," said Mr McNamara.