Chair of the MinterEllisonRuddWatts partnership, Sarah is a highly regarded construction, infrastructure and energy specialist. She has extensive experience acting for both government and private sector clients in large-scale, complex infrastructure projects and public sector reform programmes. Sarah brings a unique whole of system viewpoint and is known for providing commercially pragmatic, strategic advice on infrastructure funding models, procurement strategies, programme delivery, legislative frameworks and contracting structures.
Sarah leads our firm’s roles on the Three Waters Reform Programme, Light Rail project, City Rail Link project and the Anchor Projects in the Christchurch rebuild. She has acted on all Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the New Zealand market and is also leading our team supporting the Wellington Gateway Partnership on the delivery of Transmission Gully. Sarah is adept at conceptualising strategy and navigating challenges inherent in projects carried out in the public eye.
Sarah has expertise in both the renewable energy and upstream oil and gas sectors and advises on ‘first-of-kind’ projects such as Ports of Auckland’s hydrogen-fuelling project and the Major Electricity Users’ Group (MEUG) renewable energy generation project. Sarah has extensive experience in combining the commercial components of a project with a deep understanding of legislative, procurement and delivery processes, particularly in pathfinder projects.
At the forefront of shaping the infrastructure and construction sectors in New Zealand, Sarah also holds significant leadership roles, sitting on the inaugural board of the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission – Te Waihanga, and having served on The Treasury New Zealand advisory panel that established the Commission.
Sarah’s expertise in construction, infrastructure and energy is consistently recognised in major legal directories, including Chambers Asia-Pacific and Global. With in-house counsel experience at Genesis Energy, Enron Europe, and Utilicorp, London, Sarah focuses on issues critical to value. Clients praise her “deep understanding of the building and construction sector," describing her as “a leading New Zealand lawyer who brings the best out of her teams, has excellent technical skills herself, is very collaborative and has an exceptional network" - Chambers Asia-Pacific 2022.
Advising Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) on the reform of the three waters sector. This is a large-scale and complex project that will be transformational for local government and the infrastructure sector in New Zealand.
Advising the Ministry of Transport on the legal, commercial and strategic aspects of the procurement process for Light Rail in Auckland. This includes development of the response requirements document, preparation and advice on the commercial terms sheet, respondent engagement, and regulatory and legislative requirements.
Advising the Crown (through the Ministry of Transport and The Treasury) on the structure for the funding, delivery, and operation of the City Rail Link (CRL) project as joint sponsor with Auckland Council, and leading the drafting and negotiating of key documentation.
Advising Wellington Gateway Partnership, the PPP contractor, on all aspects of the 27km, NZD1billion Transmission Gully motorway, a key component of the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance. Transmission Gully is the first roading project in New Zealand procured through a PPP model.
Lead adviser to the Ports of Auckland on the legal, commercial, and strategic aspects of New Zealand’s first hydrogen plant and refuelling station.
Advising major energy users in New Zealand on the drafting and negotiation of a number of power purchase agreements (PPAs), including geothermal, wind, and solar electricity generation projects.
Advising the Crown and subsequently Rau Paenga (formerly Ōtākaro) on the structuring, procurement and funding of the Anchor Projects for the Christchurch rebuild following earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, including the Convention Centre, Metro Sports Facility, Bus Interchange and Avon River Precinct.
- Inaugural board member, New Zealand Infrastructure Commission – Te Waihanga
- Officer, Construction Projects Committee, International Bar Association (IBA)
- Trustee, NZ Housing Foundation
- Trustee, Reinstatement of Christchurch Cathedral Trust
Achievements and recognition
- Band 1, Construction, Chambers Asia-Pacific
- Recognised, Energy and Natural Resources, Chambers Asia-Pacific
- Recognised, Energy and Natural Resources, Chambers Global
- Leading Individual, Projects and Resources Management, The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific
- Leading Individual, Construction, The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific
- Tier 1 team, Construction, The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific
- Recognised, Leading Construction, Projects and Infrastructure Lawyer, Doyles Guide
- Highly Regarded, M&A, Energy and Infrastructure and Project Development, IFLR1000
- Women Leader, 2022, IFLR1000
- Recognised, Construction Law, Best Lawyers
- Recognised, Energy Law, Best Lawyers
- Recognised, Natural Resources Law, Best Lawyers
- Winner, Lawyer of the Year 2023, Energy Law, Best Lawyers
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