About the Royal Commission

Posted 01 Nov 2011 by RoyalCommission Popular
Posted in Media
This item was posted on the Canterbury Royal Comission website - click here to view the original

Purpose of the Royal Commission


In response to the Canterbury earthquakes on 14 March 2011 Cabinet agreed to establish a Royal Commission to inquire into the Canterbury Earthquakes chaired by Justice Mark Cooper, a sitting High Court judge.

By 13 April the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson had appointed two other Commissioners and finalised the terms of reference.

On 4 May the Commissioners met for the first time in Christchurch. A secretariat of staff has also been established to assist the Commissioners. The Department of Internal Affairs is providing business services support.

The purpose of the Commission is to examine issues around the built environment in the Christchurch central business district including, but not limited to, the Canterbury Television (CTV), Pyne Gould Corporation (PGC), Forsyth Barr and Hotel Grand Chancellor buildings. We are also required to inquire into the adequacy of the relevant building codes and standards into the future.

The Commission must take into account, but not be limited by, a technical investigation being undertaken by the Department of Building and Housing.


About the Commissioners

Hon Justice Mark Cooper (Chair)

Hon Justice Cooper (Chair)

Justice Mark Cooper studied law at the University of Auckland, graduating LLB (Hons), MJur (Dist) and winning the Fowlds prize in law in 1979.

He commenced practice with the firm Butler White & Hanna, which later merged into Simpson Grierson, and was principal legal advisor for the Auckland City, North Shore City and Rodney District Councils, advising on a wide range of laws affecting local government, including resource management, rates and valuation.

Justice Cooper became a barrister sole in 1997, and was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 2000. He was appointed to the High Court bench in Auckland in 2004.

Sir Ron Carter

Sir Ron Carter

Sir Ron Carter is a Director on the boards of Rugby New Zealand 2011 Ltd and Rural Equities Ltd, Chairman of the Committee for Auckland and a Trustee of the Sir Peter Blake Trust and the Beca Group Superannuation Plan.  He is a former director of the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand, TrustPower, Air New Zealand Ltd and former Chairman of the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.  He was also formerly a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Board and is a former President of the Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand.  

Sir Ron has carried out postgraduate research into the properties of concrete and the earthquake resistance of structures.  

Sir Ron was knighted in the 1998 New Year’s Honours for his contribution to engineering and business administration.  In March 2001 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering by the University of Auckland.

Professor Richard Fenwick

Professor Richard Fenwick

Richard Fenwick is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Canterbury.  He is an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit, a Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers NZ, a life member both of the NZ Society of Earthquake Engineering and the Structural Engineering Society and an Honorary Member of the NZ Concrete Society. 

Richard has 48 years of experience in the design of structures, in research and teaching and he has been involved in the writing of NZ Structural Design Standards.





About Counsel Assisting

The role of Counsel Assisting (lawyers) is to:

  • Supervise and conduct the investigations, including gathering all relevant information, documentation and interviewing witnesses 
  • Be a sounding board for the Commission
  • Establish open communication with all parties and encourage cooperation
  • Call evidence at the hearings
  • Carry out other functions as the Commission directs

About Stephen Mills QC

Stephen Mills QC

Stephen Mills QC holds an LLB (Hons) degree from the University of Auckland, where he was awarded a postgraduate scholarship with overseas tenure. He has an LLM degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded the American Trial Lawyers Association Prize in Environmental Law. 

He was a Teaching Fellow at the University of Michigan and has held faculty positions at the University of Auckland, Lewis & Clark, Northwestern School of Law, in Portland, Oregon, and the universities of Western Ontario and Dalhousie in Canada.

He is a former chairperson of Chapman Tripp, where he was a senior litigation partner in its Auckland office.  He joined the independent bar in 2002 and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2007. He is a member of Shortland Chambers.

He is a member of the Rules Committee and is on the Council of the New Zealand Bar Association.  He is the President Elect of the Association.

His principal areas of practice are:

  •  Commercial litigation and arbitration
  • Public law
  • Building and construction
  • Defamation and media
  • Trade Practices

 +64 3 741 3013

About Mark Zarifeh

Mark Zarifeh

Mark Zarifeh is a partner at Raymond Donnelly, a Christchurch law firm which has held the Crown Warrant since 1911. He has over 24 years experience as a Crown Prosecutor which has included appearing for the Crown: 

  • In numerous trials in both the District and High Courts
  • On appeals to the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Privy Council
  • In High Court judicial review proceedings
  • Before Disciplinary Tribunals and Parole Board Hearings
  • Prosecuting as a member of the Serious Fraud Office prosecutor's panel since 1997

+ 64 3 741 3014

About Marcus Elliott

Marcus Elliott

Marcus Elliott has a specific focus on representing the interests of victims' families. He is a barrister at Canterbury Chambers in Christchurch, specialises in civil and commercial litigation and public law and has acted in claims in contract, tort, the Fair Trading Act and applications for judicial review. He has acted in leaky homes cases involving complex building and construction issues. He also represented some families at the inquests into the deaths of people who died in the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Marcus has written and delivered a number of papers to the legal profession on civil remedies and advocacy issues. He is a member of the Council of the Canterbury Branch of the New Zealand Law Society and of the faculty of the NZLS Litigation Skills Course. He is former chair of the Board of Community Law Canterbury. He has lectured in contract and company law and tutored torts at the University of Canterbury. In addition to his legal qualifications, he has an MBA.

+ 64 3 741 3034


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