RMA Hearings Commissioner
Sarah has more than twenty years’ experience in public law and governance, environmental law and resource management, and local government. She has a particular specialism in the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.
A skilled advocate and formidable negotiator, Sarah also has considerable expertise in regulatory drafting and statutory interpretation.
Sarah has extensive experience in RMA district and regional plan development on both sides of the table – both as sole counsel for council, and representing hapu and environmental and community interests – across council hearings, mediation and the Courts. She has an impressive track record of successfully and efficiently mediating solutions resulting in significant time and cost savings for her clients. Sarah also advises and acts on resource consent appeals and declaration proceedings.
Sarah builds enduring collaborative relationships and has worked extensively with expert witnesses across a number of technical disciplines. Sarah has also previously been engaged as an expert witness with specialist knowledge of the implementation of the RMA.
During her five years in the United Kingdom Sarah was a Senior Associate in the Public Law Team at Transport for London and primary legal adviser to the Public Carriage Office (London taxis). She advised on the development and legislative implementation of the Congestion Charge and the London Low Emission Zone.
Sarah has an extensive pro bono and low bono practice, acting for hapu and environmental groups.
Prior to moving to the Independent Bar in 2017, Sarah worked for nearly ten years at leading Northland law firm Thomson Wilson Law.
Based in Northland, Sarah accepts instructions nationwide and travels regularly.
Sarah is an accredited RMA Hearings Commissioner and was appointed a Gambling Commissioner in February 2022. She is approved to accept direct instructions without an instructing solicitor.
Qualifications and appointments
LLB, BSocSc (Geography, Resource and Environmental Planning), University of Waikato, 1998
PGDipREP (Resource and Environmental Planning), University of Waikato, 2001
Admitted as Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand, 1998
Accredited RMA Hearings Commissioner, 2017
Hearings Commissioner, Auckland Council, 2020
Chair, Expert Consenting Panel, Fast-track papakainga development Kaitaia, 2021
Gambling Commissioner, February 2022
Memberships and awards
Panellist, RMA Implementation Roadshow, RMLA, 2021
Foundation board member, Questionable Research Labs Trust, 2021 –
Co-Chair, Resource Management Law Association Northland Branch, 2019 –
Convenor, Whangārei women lawyers network, 2014 –
Co-President, Whangarei Parents Centre Incorporated, 2014 – 2017
Member, Te Kahui Ture Taiao / Resource Management Law Association
Member, New Zealand Bar Association | Ngā Ahorangi Motuhake o te Ture
Simpson Grierson Prize for Environmental Law, University of Waikato, 1996
Winner Witness Examination Competition, University of Waikato, 1996
New Zealand Planning Institute Award, University of Waikato, 1998
Dux, Bream Bay College, 1992
Dr McBirney Memorial Award recipient (character, application & ability), Bream Bay College, 1992