Expert knowledge of the industry
We have specialist experience in all aspects of construction law – particularly at the front end of projects in both drafting and negotiating construction contracts. When disputes arise, our nationally recognised dispute resolution team has experience in dealing with large and complex disputes for principals, head contractors, or subcontractors.

We understand the intricacies of the construction industry and have acted for industry participants in a variety of sectors. We often use recognised industry experts from the industry to provide analysis or advice on the practicalities of construction project. This collaborative method gives our clients the best results.

Our construction clients benefit from the fact that we are a full-service law firm and our construction team comprises lawyers recognised as industry leaders. We apply this wealth of expertise to the advice and advocacy we provide to construction industry participants at all stages of their projects.

In addition to the expertise on construction projects we are in a position to use our skills as a full service law firm to provide assistance to construction companies in the following areas:
  • Business structuring
  • Financing
  • Resource Management Act issues
  • Health and safety
  • Employment relations
  • Regulatory Compliance


Recent Projects

  • Advising a major construction contractor on closing out of claims in relation to a significant anchor project in Christchurch.
  • Advising a major construction contractor on claims relating to the construction of a hospital (extensions of time, variations).
  • Advising an electrical subcontractor on non-payment issues in connection with a newly-built apartment complex in Auckland.
  • Regularly acting for clients and builders in disputes relating to quality of work or non-payment
  • Acting for a large South Island developer in complex litigation over subterranean rock anchors preventing full development of the land
  • Acting for a head contractor defending a claim for weathertight issues relating to a large residential apartment complex
  • Successfully acting for a contractor in an adjudication against a developer including recovering the costs of the adjudication and having the land owner deemed liable for the debt in addition to the developer
  • Acting for an international engineering company in a dispute over preliminary design and a subsequent tender process for a large food processing plant in the South Island
  • Acting for a subcontractor in a payment claim dispute worth over $1m on a large anchor project in Christchurch



Ebert's retention fund clarified

The recent receivership and subsequent liquidation of Ebert Construction Limited (Ebert) has been well publicised with significant public interest about another large construction firm in financial trouble.

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Construction update: payment claims for deposits – are they allowed?

The parties to a construction contract will commonly come to an arrangement where the principal will need to make a payment to the contractor before any work is undertaken. That is, the principal must pay a deposit or security. The same is also true as between contractor and subcontractor.

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Receiverships: who, what and why

The recent enforced receivership of national construction firm Ebert Construction has thrust receiverships back into the spotlight. With some 95 staff laid off and creditors owed around $40 million, the consequences of a high-profile company being forced into a receivership are apparent. Nonetheless, many people involved in the construction industry, and the general public, may have little knowledge of what a receivership entails.

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Do councils now owe a duty of care to building developers?

Jonathan Pow and Isabella van Woerkom discuss the recent Supreme Court decision in Southland Indoor Leisure Centre Charitable Trust v Invercargill City Council.

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Following up on the Building Amendment Act 2013: A Reminder to Builders

Five months have now passed since the Building Amendment Act 2013 brought into force new consumer protection measures aimed at arming consumers with new rights and remedies in relation to residential building work.

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Changes to the Building Act: How they affect you

Thinking of building or renovating? The Building Amendment Act 2013 now prescribes what information must be contained in a building contract, what information must be disclosed to a consumer and other new consumer protection measures. Make sure you are aware of these changes before signing on the dotted line. In the wake of the leaky house crisis and the increase in building activity in major centres such as Christchurch and Auckland, the residential building sector has come under the spotlight. In response to this, Parliament reviewed the Building Act 2004 (the Act).

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Subcontractor Retentions: a matter of trust

The forecast for national building and construction is at an unprecedented level, and with a sustained rate of growth that has not been seen in the past 40 years. Despite the positive prognosis for New Zealand's construction industry, cashflow problems have proved terminal for many building firms in recent times. One of the factors affecting cashflow is retentions, which are sums withheld from payments owed to the head contractor (commonly 5-10% of the total contract price), and which are designed to guarantee quality of the head contractor's work, and to ensure that any defects are put right. In most cases, the head contractor does not become eligible to receive all or part of the retained sum until the whole of the construction works are complete, or until the end of the defects liability period, which can be months or even years after completion. This amount often comprises the head contractor's entire profit margin. Unsurprisingly, most head contractors adopt the same process for paying their subcontractors, who are generally not as informed about the viability of a certain project.

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Does your contract prevent you being sued in negligence?

The Court of Appeal has recently considered this question, albeit at a very preliminary level. In 2006, the Grey District Council built an aquatic centre in Greymouth. Unfortunately, the roof of the centre was built with deficiencies. Untreated timber was used for the roof beams and at the point where aluminium and steel fixings were attached to the beams, the steel nails had corroded. The council sued its engineering company, a second engineering company (engaged by the first engineers to peer review the construction design), and an employee of the second engineering company who issued a producer statement for design to the council (the "defendants").

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Proposed Changes to the Construction Contracts Act 2002

On 29 January 2013, the Construction Contracts Amendment Bill (the "Bill") was introduced to Parliament.  The Bill proposes changes to extend the application of the Construction Contracts Act (the "CCA") to residential construction contracts, and to widen the group of professionals covered by the CCA.  It also proposes to amend the enforcement and adjudication processes and to allow more direct enforcement of determinations under the CCA. 

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Councils' Duty of Care to Purchasers of Subdivided Land

The High Court at Greymouth has recently found that a council does have a case to answer where it incorrectly certifies conditions of subdivision have been met and a subsequent purchaser of the land relies on those certifications.

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Building Repair and the Building Act 2004

An insurer, under usual replacement insurance policy terms, has to reinstate a building. Typically the insurer will, as part of this, have to comply with building requirements applying at the time of reinstatement.

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Post Earthquake Construction

The key to putting together a solid project with good prospects of success in the current environment is to thoroughly prepare in advance, understand what the risks to the project might be, and take a practical approach to allocating those risks across the parties involved.

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Construction Contracts: the effects of the Canterbury Quakes

The Canterbury earthquakes have thrown up many things to be learnt.  This article highlights some key things to consider when planning a new commercial building contract.  These issues apply wherever the building is to be located in New Zealand.

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Wynn Williams Christchurch
Level 5, Wynn Williams House, 47 Hereford Street, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand.
PO Box 4341, DX WX11179, Christchurch 8140.
+64 3 379 7622
+64 3 379 2467
Wynn Williams Auckland
Level 25, Vero Centre, 48 Shortland Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand.
PO Box 2401, Shortland Street, Auckland 1140.
+64 9 300 2600
+64 9 300 2609

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