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   Helen Macfarlane

Helen Macfarlane, Litigation & Dispute Resolution Lawyer, Hesketh Henry

T:  + 64 9 375 8711
M: + 64
21 538 604
F:  + 64 9 365 5211
E: helen.macfarlane@heskethhenry.co.nz




Helen is a partner in our Litigation and Dispute Resolution team. Helen studied English and Politics for her BA and completed a Masters in Philosophy at Auckland before studying law at Oxford

She was admitted as a barrister in London before moving to New York where she worked as a litigation attorney for 15 years with a leading US and international law firm Shearman and Sterling, specialising in commercial litigation and international arbitration.

Helen came to Hesketh Henry with strong expertise in construction litigation, director obligations, insider trading and securities fraud and had represented both defendants and plaintiffs in class and derivative actions.  Since returning to New Zealand, she has further developed her construction law expertise in connection with leaky building cases (including a seminal High Court trial), Construction Contracts Act cases and general advice relating to projects in the residential, commercial, energy and infrastructure sectors, including in Asia (where she has had experience dealing with international funders such as JICA).  Helen also provides up-front drafting advice in relation to residential and commercial construction projects and is familiar with NZS 3902, 3910, 3915 and 3916.  She has added New Zealand domestic arbitration, particularly in the valuation and commercial rent review areas, to her extensive international arbitration experience.  She has also developed significant expertise in professional indemnity insurance issues and in sanctions advice in relation to doing business in Iran. 

Examples of work:

Construction related matters

  • Acting for one of New Zealand’s largest multi-disciplinary construction consulting companies in high value claims involving multiple parties and complex design, engineering and construction issues.  Includes ongoing representation in connection with a major multi-defendant leaky building claim.  Helen also advises this client on an ongoing, as-needed basis on contractual clauses and on issues arising from consortium projects in New Zealand and Asia (including in Bangladesh and Viet Nam) as well as on contractual/payment claim disputes with clients and/or sub-consultants. 
  • Representing a major insurer providing drafting advice on a suite of construction contracts for use in the Christchurch rebuild.  Covers all aspects of drafting and risk analysis, including insurances required for construction projects.
  • Providing advice to a consultant regarding contractual terms of retention by a consortium in connection with a tender for a major PPP infrastructure project.
  • Providing advice to insurer on cover and potential claims in relation to Royal Commission of Inquiry into building failures caused by the Canterbury earthquakes; extensive work with engineers in connection with the same.
  • Successfully defending a project manager in seminal High Court trial relating to leaky building claims in a multi-unit residential development. The claim against our client was dismissed, with costs awarded against the plaintiffs.
  • Representing project managers in a High Court leaky building case.  Negotiated a settlement where our client paid nothing except its own costs.
  • Representing major architectural/engineering firm in multi-party residential leaky building case.  Negotiated early dismissal from the case for a nominal payment.
  • Representing project manager in leaky building case before WHRS.  Spear-headed negotiations on part of defendant group to achieve settlement where plaintiffs recovered less than half the amount originally claimed.
  • Representing clients in a number of Construction Contracts Act cases.  Helen has experience representing both claimants and respondents.

Professional Indemnity matters

  • Advising insurers concerning claims of professional negligence/misconduct of Engineer to contract arising out of Construction Contracts Act claims relating to a roading project.
  • Advising insurers and defending a firm of solicitors against allegations of equitable fraud and breaches of fiduciary duty resulting from representations dating back to 1989.
  • Advising insurers and defending a firm of solicitors against allegations of breach of contract and negligence in relation to the transfer and development of a luxury property in Queenstown.

Commercial Property matters

  • Representing a major property investor/management company in a commercial rent review arbitration involving complex valuation and geotechnical evidence. 
  • Representing property management company in proceedings under the Declaratory Judgment Act arising out of an encumbrance dispute.
  • Advising a major national retailer in connection with resolving a long-standing lease dispute following the Christchurch earthquakes.  Helen achieved a negotiated settlement several months after becoming involved.
  • Representing a major consulting company in connection with a dispute with its landlord over termination of its lease.  Helen arranged for a fast-track mediation resulting in a commercial settlement approximately one month after she became involved.


  • Advice to group of companies with New Zealand parent on New Zealand’s sanctions regime in connection with doing business in Iran.

Relevant US experience

  • Advising and representing a European government pension fund in a dispute with property and casualty insurers in relation to a multi-hundred million dollar claim for damage to high rise commercial property.
  • Advising and representing major multi-national engineering firm in connection with international arbitration arising from contract dispute relating to construction of hydro-electric power plant in the Middle East.


New Zealand Law Firm Legal 500 Recommended Lawyer 2018-761 Individually recognised as a 'Recommended Lawyer' for Construction in The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2018 Directory.

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