"The Maori world is a rich, deep and complex one" - Beverley

It was music that got Buddle Findlay chairman Paul Beverley through university - not just listening to it, like most of us, but performing in bands at pubs, functions and balls.

It helped pay the bills, he enjoyed it and became a professional musician for a time.

"All through my university days, I played a lot of soul and funk music with a great group of friends and musicians," recalls Beverley from Buddle Findlay's Auckland headquarters, on level 18 of the PwC Tower on the city's waterfront.

But in the past few years, the refrain sounding loudest in his life is redress for tangata whenua. That means addressing the wrongs of the past, helping Maori groups negotiate, then draft Treaty of Waitangi deeds of settlement as one of the Crown team representing the Justice Ministry's Office of Treaty Settlements, Te Tari Whakatau Take e pa ana ki te Tiriti o Waitangi.

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Partly because of Beverley's work, Te Urewera, the Whanganui River and 14 Auckland maunga, and the relationship of tangata whenua with those places, are now recognised in law.

"The Maori world is a rich, deep and complex one and I only understand a little of it," says Beverley. "The more time I spend working in the Maori world, the more I realise I don't know.

"This is a world view which has developed over many generations and reflects a deep and complex philosophy and relationships. Humility, respect and a desire to learn are all very important in all of this work.

"I have very good relationships with the iwi I have worked with. It's a very intense - at times very difficult - negotiation process and if you can survive that, you form strong bonds.

Paul Beverley of Buddle Findlay in Wellington. Photo/Marty Melville
Paul Beverley of Buddle Findlay in Wellington. Photo/Marty Melville

"I've been lucky also to be a member of strong Crown and local government negotiating teams. One of the great Maori grievances in this country is that law has suppressed the Maori world view and identity. We are now seeing the emergence of legal frameworks which give more respect and visibility to that world view."

Beverley says that has been particularly evident through Treaty settlements and the strong leadership of iwi heads, ministers and local government leaders. The new frameworks allow both the Maori and non-Maori world views to be visible and work together, to better meet the interests of all, he says.

But music was his first focus.

Throughout his LLB and commerce degrees at Otago, Beverley was in bands, singing and playing bass, guitar and saxophone. He and Wallace Chapman, now an RNZ National broadcaster, formed the band Soulminers, writing half their material, performing soul, jazz and funk and touring New Zealand.

"My parents were migrants from South Africa who settled in Blenheim and my father was a professional musician, a jazz drummer, so there was always music in the house.

"Four of my brothers played the drums as well - it was quite noisy at times."

After graduating, he continued as a professional musician in 1992-93 in Dunedin, Blenheim and elsewhere. Beverley started legal practice in 1994, and in 1995 studied for his Master of Laws at Victoria University, before heading across Cook Strait to teach law at what was then Nelson Polytechnic.

His "classic Kiwi OE" took in Nepal and India, a long trip through Europe and North Africa in a van, then working as a waiter north of Glasgow at Loch Fyne.

Beverley returned to New Zealand in 1999, joining Chapman Tripp's Wellington office, specialising in resource management, property and Treaty of Waitangi settlement law.

Towards the end of 2002, he began four years as the Department of Conservation's senior solicitor.

Beverley feels fortunate to have an insight into the Maori world. Photo/Alan Gibson.
Beverley feels fortunate to have an insight into the Maori world. Photo/Alan Gibson.

"I loved the government experience and the conservation subject matter, and I did Maori and Treaty settlement law there because there is so much crossover between DOC land and Maori issues," he says.

"Since then, I've specialised in two areas: resource management and Maori/Treaty settlement law."

In 2006 he joined Buddle Findlay's Wellington office, acting for the Crown on the Waikato River claim, which resulted in the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 and other legislation, recognising the river as a tupuna or ancestor with mana, and in turn representing the mauri or life force of the tribe.

By 2009 he was representing Contact Energy in its controversial Waitahora wind farm application, putting the case for the $550 million project on the Puketoi ranges east of Pahiatua.

A year later he was drafting the eight Te Tau Ihu Iwi settlement deeds for the Office of Treaty Settlements, involving iwi from the top of the South Island, including the area where Beverley grew up.

The Whanganui river. Photo/Richard Coates
The Whanganui river. Photo/Richard Coates

Acting again for the Office of Treaty Settlements, he was a member of the core Crown negotiation and drafting team for Ruruku Whakatupua, the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement which focused on the health and wellbeing of the Whanganui River - which is now its own legal entity.

In 2012 he acted for Riverstone Holdings, which proposed a multimillion-dollar Fiordland monorail as part of a project which would have included a catamaran trip from Queenstown to Mt Nicholas Station, an all-terrain vehicle drive to Kiwi Burn near the Mavora Lakes, then a 41km monorail ride to Te Anau Downs.

Aerial view of Mount Eden. Photo/ Martin Sykes
Aerial view of Mount Eden. Photo/ Martin Sykes

Also in 2012, he acted for Auckland Council on the Tamaki Makaurau Collective Deed of Settlement for 13 iwi and /hapu.

Fourteen of Auckland's maunga now have their own legal recognition as the Tupuna Maunga of the iwi of the Tamaki Collective.

"Those maunga are the embodiment of the iwi ancestors so the law now recognises that through the vesting of those volcanic cones back in the iwi, and the Tupuna Maunga (co-governance) Authority. It's a really important point in the journey."

Between 2012 and 2014, he was part of the core Crown team negotiating the Tuhoe Te Urewera settlement, "including arrangements so that Te Urewera is recognised as its own legal personality".

"Te Urewera is no longer owned by the Crown; it's essentially owned by itself," says Beverley.

In 2015 he acted for Ngati Awa on its concerns that the wreck of the ship Rena was destroying the life force of the Astrolabe Reef, off Tauranga.

Ngati Awa called for full removal of the wreck. Only that would repair the relationship between the iwi and Tangaroa (the Maori god of the sea) and enable the repair of the mauri of Otaiti (Astrolabe Reef), Beverley said.

In February this year he acted for the Palmerston North-based Horizons Regional Council, facing challenges on how it gives consents for intensive farming.

"I really enjoy the variety of work and issues that arise in the environmental/Maori law areas," he says.

As for Te Reo, Beverley is humble about his abilities: "I attend a number of hui each week, I listen hard, but I speak very little. I have learnt a lot about the Maori world view in relation to natural resources through those hui, but there is a lot more to learn."

Paul Beverley

Job:

National chairman of law firm Buddle Findlay

Age:

50

Family:

Married to art photographer Lara Gilks. Children Louie, 11, Solomon, 8

From:

Blenheim

Education:

St Mary's School, Blenheim, Marlborough Boys' College, Otago University, Victoria University

Lives:

Seatoun, Wellington

Last book:

The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

Last movie:

Moonlight

• Last overseas holiday: Easter family trip to Melbourne