A small town lawyer allegedly advised a foreign investor to break the law around the purchase of New Zealand land or helped them to evade these rules.

However, a Law Society standards committee declined to act on a complaint about this alleged behaviour and the Legal Complaints Review Officer recently reached the same decision.

A woman who lives in the town in question complained to both organisations about the lawyer's alleged conduct.

Neither the woman, the lawyer nor the town are identified in the LCRO's decision on the matter.


The woman wanted the LCRO to review the standards committee's decision to take no action on the complaint.

She argued that as a New Zealand citizen she had a duty to complain when a lawyer breaks the law to advantage his client.

She wanted the LCRO to investigate her allegation that the lawyer advised his client not to seek Overseas Investment Office (OIO) consent when buying the land, knowing that his client would lose the sale if he did, and that the office almost never refuses retrospective consent.

The complainant argued that the lawyer was either reckless when giving advice to his client - which resulted in an evasion of the Overseas Investment Act- or told his client to break that law.

But Legal Complaints Review Officer Dorothy Thresher said further inquiry into the complaint was inappropriate.

The OIO had jurisdiction over offences under that law and it appeared that office may yet investigate the lawyer's conduct, Thresher said.

Thresher also said there was insufficient evidence on review to determine whether a disciplinary response was appropriate.​