I regularly appear as legal counsel before the Environment Court and courts of general jurisdiction in New Zealand as well as International Tribunals.

I strive for optimal outcomes in all litigation. This commences with a practical evaluation of the merits of the case, and re-evaluation as the proceedings unfold.

Each case is strategically analysed based on its circumstances. The identification of issues, strength and weakness of a given case, the direct and indirect costs of litigation as well as likelihood of success, are all considered when preparing legal strategies.

My budgeting practices ensure efficiency and proper use of your resources, considering your goals from the onset of legal proceedings.

Some of my recent cases include:

  • Counsel for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū & Ors (appeal against conditions of consent to abandon the MV Rena) in Ngāi Te Hapū & Ngā Potiki a Tamapahore Trust v Bay of Plenty Regional Council [2017] NZENVC 073 (EC).
  • Counsel for Talley’s Group Limited in Kiwis Against Seabed Mining Inc v Environmental Protection Authority [2016] NZENVC 217 (EC).
  • Counsel for Soil and Health Association of New Zealand Incorporated in Federated Farmers of New Zealand v Northland Regional Council [2016] NZHC 2036 (HC).
  • Counsel for Soil and Health Association of New Zealand Incorporated in Federated Farmers of New Zealand v Northland Regional Council [2015] 18 ELRNZ 603 (EC).
  • Counsel for Hamilton East Community Trust in Hamilton East Community Trust v Hamilton City Council [2014] NZENVC 220 (EC).
  • Counsel for Fisheries Inshore New Zealand Limited & Ors in Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd Marine Consent Decision before Decision Making Committee of Environmental Protection Authority (17 June 2014).
  • Counsel for Soil and Health Association of New Zealand Incorporated in New Zealand Forest Research Institute Ltd (Scion) v Bay of Plenty Regional Council [2013] NZENVC 298 (EC).
  • Counsel for Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa in Motiti Avocados Limited v Minister of Local Government [2013] NZHC 1268 (HC).
  • Counsel for defendants in (MV Rena limitation proceedings) Daina Shipping Co & Ors v Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa & Te Runanga o Ngāi Te Rangi [2012] NZHC 3411, [2013] NZHC 500, [2013] 2 NZLR 799 (HC).
  • Counsel for Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa in Hoete & Ors v Minister of Local Government [2012] NZENVC 282 (EC).
  • Counsel for Minister of Education in Air New Zealand Ltd v Queenstown Lakes District Council [2012] NZENVC 195 (EC).
  • Counsel for Society in Akaroa Marine Protection Society Incorporated v The Minister of Conservation [2012] NZHC 933, [2012] NZRMA 343, [2012] NZAR 655 (HC).
  • Counsel for the IUCN, before Seabed Disputes Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, in Advisory Opinion proceedings on Responsibilities and Obligations of States Sponsoring Persons and Entities with Respect to Activities in the Area (Advisory Opinion 17, 1 February 2011).


“Robert acted for a collective of fishing interests in response to two seabed mining applications under the relatively recent EEZ and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012. Given the legislation was new, we were navigating uncharted legal territory. This made the proceedings challenging from a legal, procedural and evidential perspective and Robert provided excellent advice on all fronts. I found Robert’s advice insightful, and valued his ability to not only traverse the legal matters but also offer a perspective of evidential issues. He was across many of the technical aspects of the application which is testament to his commitment to his clients. Robert also worked seamlessly with instructing Counsel, contracted technical experts and other legal professionals involved in the matter.”

Dr Jeremy Helson, CEO – Fisheries Inshore New Zealand Ltd

“Robert Makgill acted pro bono for us on the Iwi appeals against leaving the wreck of the MV Rena on Astrolabe Reef/Otāiti. After numerous interlocutory arguments brought by the Applicant against our standing the appeals were finally heard in the Environment Court over three weeks in March 2017. Robert worked hard to bring together legal counsel and expert witnesses for all the Iwi Appellants so that we were able present a joint case. He also drew on his relationships with several high-profile expert witnesses who contributed their time and prepared evidence for the Iwi Appellants at little or no cost. This enabled us to present a very strong case against the Applicant who was financed by insurers and owners with extremely deep pockets. Robert was sensitive to our cultural view that the wreck should be removed from Otāiti, but also ensured that a pragmatic approach was taken in submissions and evidence towards seeking stronger cultural and environmental conditions if the consent was not declined. Although the Court did not decline consent, it issued an interim decision requiring the Applicant to formulate much more robust conditions of consent. Robert formed trusting relationships with kuia and kaumatua who often ask how he is and think of him with fond memories. We wish Robert all the very best and highly recommend his legal services.”

Maria Horne (manager) for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū Inc. and Te Arawa Takitai Moana Kaumatua Forum

“Robert Makgill joined American lawyers, Cymie Payne and Donald Anton, as legal counsel for the IUCN before the International Law for the Sea Tribunal in Hamburg, Germany, in late 2010. Robert, and his co-counsels’, written statement and oral submissions received high praise from international lawyers within the IUCN and other delegates who appeared in Hamburg. I am of the view that their contribution to the Tribunal’s ensuing historic Advisory Opinion on deep sea mining was significant.”

Harlan Cohen, PhD, Advisor on Ocean Governance and International Institutions IUCN Washington

“After waiting 17 years for a decision, the Minister of Conservation (Hon Kate Wilkinson) declined the Society’s application to establish the Akaroa Marine Reserve in 2010.  Robert successfully led a Judicial Review of the Minister’s decision in 2012, and subsequently advised us on our strategy for reserve approval. The new Minister of Conservation (Hon Dr Nick Smith) approved the application for a marine reserve in 2013. We highly recommend Robert to anyone contemplating judicial review.”

Brian Reid, Chair of Akaroa Marine Protection Society Incorporated

“Scion appealed the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s policy statement seeking the removal of any reference to community concerns about the risks posed by field trials of genetically modified organisms. Soil and Health was worried about the implications that this appeal would have for the Bay of Plenty organic industry. Robert helped us put together a very professional case in opposition to Scion, which resulted in the retention of GMOs as an emerging issue in the policy statement and case law that stands the New Zealand organic sector in good stead moving forward.”

Marion Thomson, Co-Chair Soil and Health Association of New Zealand Incorporated