Chris Finlayson

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The Honourable
Chris Finlayson
Chris Finlayson-Net Hui 2011.jpg
32nd Attorney-General of New Zealand
In office
19 November 2008 – 26 October 2017
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Michael Cullen
Succeeded by David Parker
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
In office
19 November 2008 – 26 October 2017
Prime Minister John Key
Bill English
Preceded by Michael Cullen
Succeeded by Andrew Little
Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
In office
19 November 2008 – 13 October 2014
Prime Minister John Key
Preceded by Helen Clark
Succeeded by Maggie Barry
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for National Party List
Assumed office
17 September 2005
Personal details
Born 1956 (age 61–62)
Nationality New Zealand
Political party National Party
Relations Annette King (cousin)
Occupation Lawyer

Christopher Francis Finlayson QC (born 1956) is a New Zealand lawyer, politician and Member of Parliament, representing the National Party. From 19 November 2008 until 26 October 2017 he was a Cabinet minister. He was the Attorney-General Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and, for a shorter period, Minister of Culture and Heritage.[1] On 6 October 2014, Finlayson also assumed responsibility for the ministerial portfolios of Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau and the Minister in Charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, New Zealand's two main intelligence agencies.[2]

Early life[edit]

Finlayson grew up in the Wellington suburb of Khandallah; he has two brothers.[3] He attended St. Patrick's College. He graduated with a BA in Latin and French and an LLM from Victoria University of Wellington and has practised law in Wellington for a number of years. He has also had a part-time teaching role at Victoria University of Wellington. Finlayson has been heavily involved in the arts community. He chaired Creative New Zealand's Arts Board from 1998 to 2001, and was a former trustee of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Legal background[edit]

Finlayson was admitted to the Bar as a barrister and solicitor in February 1981. He was a partner in Brandon Brookfield from 1986 to 1990 and then in Bell Gully from 1991 to 2003. He has practised as a barrister sole at the Barristers.Comm chambers since 2003. At Bell Gully he spent years fighting for Ngāi Tahu against the government, pursuing its treaty claims through a series of high-profile court battles. "I used to love going to the office in the morning when we were suing the Crown" Finlayson said in a speech in 2009. "Ngāi Tahu mastered the art of aggressive litigation, whether it was suing the Waitangi Tribunal and [National Treaty negotiations minister] Doug Graham or the Director-General of Conservation. It was take no prisoners and it resulted in a good settlement."[4] The signing of the Treaty deal with Ngāi Tahu in 1997, he said in his maiden speech in parliament, was the highlight of his legal career.

Since his admission, Finlayson has appeared in all courts of New Zealand, including seven appearances before the Privy Council, including as counsel for the New Zealand Bar Association in Harley v McDonald [2001] 2 WLR 1749 and counsel for the British Government in Attorney-General for England and Wales v R (a decision of the Privy Council delivered on 17 March 2003). He has extensive experience appearing before tribunals and local authorities in New Zealand. He has had significant experience teaching in the Faculty of Law of Victoria University of Wellington. Since 1987, he has taught civil procedure for LLB, conflict of laws both for LLB and for LLM, intellectual property for LLB (Hons) and ethics for LLB. He served as Law Society representative on the New Zealand Council of Law Reporting from 1990 until 1998 and the New Zealand Council of Legal Education from 1992 until 1998.[citation needed]

Finlayson co-authored McGechan on Procedure, the leading New Zealand text on the practice and procedure of the Courts of New Zealand, and was the founding editor of the Procedure Reports of New Zealand. He has written papers on many subjects, including intellectual property, litigation and conflicts of interest and has presented New Zealand Law Society seminars on High Court practice, conflicts of interest and limitation.[citation needed]

Since his appointment as Attorney General, Finlayson has been successful in reaching an unprecedented number of financial Waitangi Treaty settlements with many Maori iwi he had represented in private practice. He has also used his executive powers to make more High Court applications seeking litigants be prevented court access on grounds they are vexatious than in the prior 60 years,[5][better source needed] including a protracted court battle against legal news blogger Vince Siemer.

On 13 December 2012, Finlayson was recommended by Prime Minister John Key for appointment by the Governor-General as Queen's Counsel,[6] based on his role as Attorney-General.[7]

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2005–2008 48th List 27 National
2008–2011 49th List 14 National
2011–2014 50th List 9 National
2014–2017 51st List 8 National
2017–present 52nd List 9 National

Finlayson joined the National Party in 1974 while still at St Patrick's College, after having had a long conversation with Keith Holyoake at Parliament the previous year.[3] Finlayson stood as National's candidate for the Mana electorate in the 2005 election, and was also ranked twenty-seventh on National's party list, making him the second most highly ranked National candidate who was not already an MP. While he failed to win Mana, losing by a margin of 6,734 votes,[8] the National Party polled well on party votes and Finlayson was elected via the party list. Upon his election, he was appointed shadow Attorney-General by then leader Don Brash. He had previously held the Shadow Cabinet roles of Shadow Attorney-General, Shadow Treaty Negotiations Minister and Shadow Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister. And he was the Deputy Chairman of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee.

Since the 2008 election, Finlayson has contested the Rongotai electorate, which has been held by his cousin Annette King of the Labour Party since the 1996 election.[9] In the 2014 election, the National Party beat the Labour Party in the party vote in that electorate; the first time since the initial Rongotai election in 1996.[10][11]

Finlayson (left) with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Minister Gerry Brownlee at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington.

In June 2010 he was found by the registrar of pecuniary interests to have broken the rules in not declaring a directorship in his annual pecuniary interest return.[12] Following the 2014 New Zealand general elections, Finlayson was appointed as the Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau and the Minister in Charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, the country's two main intelligence agencies. These positions had been traditionally held by the Prime Minister; instead, John Key assumed the newly created position of Minister of National Security and Intelligence.[2]

After National lost the 2017 general election and became the main opposition party, Finlayson was appointed Shadow Attorney-General.[13]


Initially ranked 27th on the party list, Finlayson was promoted to 18th in the first caucus ranking after the 2005 general election. Following the election of John Key as leader, Finlayson was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet and placed at 14th on the 2008 election party list.

Personal life[edit]

Finlayson has described himself as being an "odd fish" since he is gay as well as being a Catholic.[3] He has no partner, and says he is celibate.[3] He is a distant cousin on his mother's side of Labour MP Annette King.[14]


  1. ^ "Ministerial List for Announcement on 17 November 2008" (PDF) (Press release). New Zealand Government. 17 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
  2. ^ a b "National Security and Intelligence role created". Scoop Media. New Zealand. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Hubbard, Anthony (30 May 2010). "The man in the middle". Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  4. ^ Finlayson, Christopher (14 July 2009). "Treaty Settlements: Speech for Ta Apirana Ngata Memorial Lecture". Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  5. ^ Finlayson Kiwisfirst Man of the Year, 11 January 2013
  6. ^ Pursuant to regulation 4 of the Queen’s Counsel Regulations
  7. ^ "Appointment of Queen's Counsel" (20 December 2012) 151 New Zealand Gazette 4437 at 4463.
  8. ^ "2005 Official Count Results -- Mana". Electoral Commission. 1 October 2005. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  9. ^ Finlayson, Chris (27 September 2014). "Diary Australia". The Spectator.
  10. ^ "Part V - Electorate Summary of Votes for Registered Parties" (PDF). Electoral Commission. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Official Count Results -- Rongotai". Electoral Commission. 4 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Attorney-general breaks rules by not declaring company directorship". Stuff. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  13. ^ "Finlayson, Christopher". Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  14. ^ "Today in Politics". Fairfax Media. 26 September 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2014.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Cullen
Succeeded by
David Parker
Minister Responsible for Treaty of Waitangi negotiations
Succeeded by
Andrew Little
Preceded by
Helen Clark
Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage
Succeeded by
Maggie Barry