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News & Events

In a crisis, having both your lawyer and a FirstMate Navigator on speed dial is key. Oceanlaw consultant Kim Proctor-Stephens talks about our collaborative efforts in the latest issue of Professional Skipper magazine.

20 May 2024

In maritime emergencies, the legal team at Oceanlaw New Zealand leaps into action, providing critical legal support right where it's needed most. But sometimes, legal advice alone isn’t enough. That's where our dedicated team of FirstMate Navigators steps in, offering invaluable wraparound support for our seafood whānau. We ensure the wellbeing of crews, handle logistics, and provide a listening ear during stressful situations. In crisis moments, having both your lawyer and a FirstMate Navigator on speed dial makes all the difference.

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The story 'When you might need a mate' is written by Kim Proctor-Stephens, maritime legal consultant at Oceanlaw, and appears in the May/June 2024 issue of Professional Skipper magazine.
It is common for the team at Oceanlaw New Zealand to jump on a plane in response to an emergency situation in order to support and advise our clients on location. These situations can arise as a result of accidents or incidents or even 'raids' by regulatory authorities. The main purpose of us attending is that we will go and do some of the hard thinking for our clients in a situation which is both stressful and uncertain. Being there helps us to keep track of all the moving pieces.Our main job is to provide timely, effective and practical legal advice to our clients as to the various issues they are facing. For example, during Maritime NZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries' investigations, a vessel is often detained for a period of time to allow inspections to occur or evidence to be gathered.We all know a fishing vessel which is not fishing does not make any money, so our imperative is to get that vessel released and out fishing again, or perhaps the goal is to get her crew home in order to look after their wellbeing. Either way, we can be useful in assisting a client to navigate that process.Another reason we find ourselves jumping on a plane is because we are being called in to support our clients and their employees, skippers/masters and crew at interviews conducted by various regulatory authorities.We have a special status under the law to enable us to attend and advise our clients in those situations because, as lawyers, we are officers of the court and are bound by a whole host of duties toward our clients.Generally, only a lawyer will do in those situations and, although it's not always the case, they will often be the only ones permitted to attend an interview with a client.Although lawyers can be useful in supporting our clients as they navigate through such critical events, we can't do everything, and there is a role for someone with a larger brief than just dealing with the legal intricacies of the event.This year I have had occasion to up sticks and rush to the location of a serious maritime incident with my toothbrush in hand. It wasn't going to be a one-day trip. I was expecting this crisis to be, as it often is, logistically difficult to manage and stressful on clients and lawyers alike.This time was different. This time, our mates from FirstMate NZ had it all under control, so all we needed to do was concentrate on the things within each one of our own wheelhouses, mine being the legal stuff and the hard thinking that comes with that.We were met at the airport by the smiling face of a FirstMate navigator, a familiar face from the wider seafood whanau. I tagged along as my clients were briefed on the on-the-ground situation, and we were taken where we needed to be. Meeting rooms were organised, and quiet chats with those who needed a listening ear were undertaken without fuss or bother. The wellbeing of the crew and the company was the top priority.FirstMate even sorted the logistics of getting the crew down to Kmart to buy some essential clothing because they had walked off the vessel in what they were standing up in.The FirstMate team was very impressive. The quiet and unassuming manner in which they undertook to look after their fishing whanau was a pleasure to behold. I also know that behind the scenes, FirstMate was working on pulling resources together to support everyone involved in the aftermath, once the initial crisis died away.As good as we can be as solicitors, we don't offer the kinds of wraparound assistance I saw in action. It is our job as lawyers to think rationally and logically, sometimes making it necessary to take the emotion out of the situation to get the job done. The First Mate team was there to ensure that emotions were not left with nowhere to go.That begs the question, who would you call in a crisis? Well, both of us. If there is some s*** going down, your lawyer should definitely be on the immediate contact list. But there is room on that list for your FirstMate navigator, so don't forget them!If you don't have a lawyer but should have one, I can guarantee your navigator will be onto that with contacts, recommendations and suggestions. All that is required is to ask for their help.I know from personal experience, having worked with the team at FirstMate on the other side of the process, that they work tirelessly to facilitate access to the right services at the right time for people who have a need to access those services.The seafood whanau who are assisted by FirstMate in these circumstances often don't know where to turn, what to do or indeed, what facilities are available to them. FirstMate navigators make sure our seafood whanau who have an issue that needs sorting, whether it be related to business, family, mental health and wellbeing or legal matters (and the lists goes on), are put in touch with the right people.This work is often undertaken during unsociable hours and on an urgent basis. Having worked with FirstMate to provide some of that advice, it was wonderful to be able to witness the receiving end of that and see my clients supported in the way that they were by this organisation.It is true that, as lawyers, we can do a lot to help our clients and we will continue to do so. But, sometimes, when the worst happens, you do really need a mate.

Seafood Sector Wellbeing Event

15 December 2023

Join us on 15 December, between 8am and 10am, at Lee Fish Factory, Leigh for an unmissable seafood sector wellbeing event.

Seafood Sector Wellbeing Event

15 December 2023

Join us on 15 December, between 3pm and 5pm, at NIWA Ruakākā facility, Ruakākā for an unmissable seafood sector wellbeing event.

Past Events

Seafood Sector Wellbeing Event

2 December 2023

Join us on 2 December, between 2pm and 5pm, at Boat Ramp Eatery, Napier for an unmissable seafood sector wellbeing event.

Seafood Sector  Wellbeing Event

27 October 2023

Join us on 27 October, between 4.00pm and 7.00pm, at Blue Lagoon, Whitianga for an unmissable seafood sector wellbeing event.

Seafood Sector Wellbeing Event 

17th September 2023

Join us on 17 September, between 12 pm and 3 pm, at Ruawai-Tokatoka War Memorial Hall in Ruawai, Northland, for an unmissable seafood sector wellbeing event.

Seafood Sector Wellbeing Event 

21st September 2023

Join us on 21 September, between 11:30 am and 3 pm, at Boat Ramp Eatery in Nelson Quay, Ahuriri, Napier, for an unmissable seafood sector wellbeing event.

Seafood Sector  Wellbeing Event

19th October 2023

Join us on 19 October, between 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm, at Tatapouri Fishing Club in Gisborne, for an unmissable seafood sector wellbeing event.

The Big Check-In

4th May 2023

In tough times like these, farmers, growers, fishers and rural people check in on each other. We tell stories, yarn about the to-do list and remind ourselves that we’re resilient people, and we’ll get through this.

On Thursday 4 May (7pm-8:30pm), come and join the biggest rural check-in yet.

Timaru Seafood BBQ

18th March 2023

FirstMate, Talley's Group, Sanford Limited and Pegasus Fishing invite you to a free fun-filled seafood barbecue at Timaru Yacht & Power Boat Club, between 11am and 1pm on Saturday 18th March

Save the date and come join us for some quality time with local fishers and their whanau and to taste delicious local seafood caught by local people


RadioNZ: Damage from Cyclone Gabrielle to Hawke's Bay seabed revealed

When Cyclone Gabrielle hit Hawke's Bay in February it flooded homes, devastated communities and destroyed farm infrastructure.

BayBuzz: Cyclone Gabrielle’s Long Tail: Mental Distress

On February 14, Cyclone Gabrielle struck Hawke’s Bay causing widespread devastation, and the death of eight people in the region, with the youngest being only 2.

Summer Newsletter

RadioNZ: Zak Olsen is a guests on the Morning Rural News segment

Newstalk ZB: 
Supporting Mental wellbeing in the fishing industry

Hawke's Bay Today: Commercial fishing still hurting after Cyclone Gabrielle

Newshub: Cyclone Gabrielle: Debris renders areas unfishable

Primary Matters podcast series featuring Darren Guard

RNZ: Mental health in seafood industry in the spotlight

ACC Video & Story: Darren’s story: The pain of losing someone at sea

The Herald: Darren Guard 'Navigating the choppy waters of professional fishers'

Stuff Lifestyle: Trustee, Tamar Wells 'Tired of paying someone else's mortgage, I bought with my sister'

Call 0800 ADRIFT for support any day between 7am and 10pm or email to access the support you need. We also have a growing library of free resources available for you to access on our website.