L AW TA L K 9 2 9 · J une 2 0 1 9
Focus On ... Thames-Coromandel Gold is gone but there’s plenty of diamonds in an area of contrasts BY CRAIG STEPHEN
It is an area that developed with gold mining and, despite the lack of blue collar industries these days, tourism, housing and health keep the near two dozen lawyers based in Thames-Coromandel busy. One of those lawyers, Michael Ussher, has been in the district since 2007 and his firm now has offices in Whitianga and Whangamata. “It is typical provincial New Zealand. There is an incredible mix of work, in a relatively challenging environment, with an elderly population and very little industry on the eastern seaboard except for tourism and hospitality. The population generally has higher equity and lower incomes which presents some interesting challenges. There’s also a lot of property turnover, relating to people with young families having baches, and when those families grow up they move on. The population can be transitory,” he says. “It’s certainly a beautiful place to work and if you like the beach and the outdoors, it’s ideal.” Thames law firm Miller Poulgrain has a connection with the local community going back to the days of gold mining that brought thousands of eager diggers and associThere is an ated workers, and in fact the firm incredible is currently celebrating the 150th mix of work, anniversary of the firm it owes its in a relatively existence to. challenging A partner, Rodney Poulgrain, says environment... with Thames in the grip of gold fever The population at that time there was an obvious generally has need for law firms, which is where higher equity McDonald and Miller came in. and lower “It was a very bustling place back incomes which then with a bigger population than presents some Auckland, and then I understand interesting things went pretty quiet and the challenges.
town all but went bankrupt in the depression days. But from that it built up other industries such as dairy farming, fishing, forestry and in more recent times the Toyota car assembly plant.” Miller Poulgrain attends to the gamut of legal services the area needs. “We are a general practice, so we have got to be prepared to pretty much do everything that comes in the door but conveyancing, elder law and estates would account for a lot of what we do. I guess it’s not too different from a lot of other provincial towns in New Zealand.” Mr Poulgrain is born and bred in Thames but studied in Auckland and had his first job at Rudd Garland & Horrocks in the city before returning to the family firm in 1983. His great grandfather John William Poulgrain was employed by McDonald and Miller in 1871 as an articled clerk – and later was the managing clerk – and worked for over 60 years in the practice. Rodney Poulgrain is the fourth generation of his family in the firm. John William Poulgrain’s son Cecil Horace became a partner in 1921 and the firm then changed its name to Miller & Poulgrain.
Burgers to the Bar Michael Ussher was working for a large law firm in Auckland when he and his family decided to make the move out. Initially, however, continuing in the law on the peninsula wasn’t his main priority. “When I came down here I set up a burger bar and ended up running that for three years. Hospitality was hard work with a young family, and people, when they found out that I was a lawyer, urged me to get back into practice. “So I did go back into the law and enjoyed the challenge of general practice in a small town. Initially, I just had a home office but it got busier and busier so we have gone from just me to three lawyers, two legal executives, a receptionist and a trust account administrator trading 89