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High-profile Northland lawyer Wayne Peters has taken "Lion Man" Craig Busch to court in a bid to recover more than $86,000 in legal fees.
The case has dragged on for about two years as attempts to serve Mr Busch, who is believed to be in Africa, with legal papers have been unsuccessful.
Mr Busch is the former owner of Zion Wildlife Gardens and starred in the TV show The Lion Man.
The Advocate has obtained a copy of Judge Keith de Ridder's decision in the Whangarei District Court, which said Mr Busch engaged Wayne Peters and Associates for a variety of legal services for 7 months in August 2008.
Mr Peters refused to comment on the case.
The court decision says Mr Busch was billed $86,351.47 and, when he failed to pay, Mr Peters filed an application for summary judgment in October 2009.
Summary judgment is issued where there is no real contest on any debt that is claimed.
Since attempts to serve legal documents on Mr Busch failed, Mr Peters sought an order in May 2010 that the Lion Man's lawyers be served, and the order was granted.
No statement of defence was filed by Mr Busch, and Mr Peters applied for an order for summary judgment on his claim.
Whangarei lawyer Tony Savage appeared on behalf of Mr Peters at an initial hearing after being served.
Mr Savage had not received instructions to act in the case but understood Mr Busch wished to defend the proceedings and was seeking legal advice.
Judge de Ridder declined summary judgment because Mr Busch was overseas.
No date has been allocated for the hearing in Whangarei District Court.
Mr Peters represented Mr Busch at the High Court in Whangarei in November 2008, when the Lion Man wanted the court to appoint independent directors to run Zion Wildlife Gardens.
The last known whereabouts of Mr Busch was at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, about 40km northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, in January, where he was helping save rhinos from poachers.
Zion Wildlife Gardens is also trying to recoup money from Mr Busch.
His former employer is still waiting for him to pay more than $20,000 for breaching terms of his employment agreement and the return of tens of thousands of dollars in equipment he took after being sacked.