Leo Watson

TK14 Advisor

Leo Watson graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honours) and a Bachelor of Arts (Māori Language and Customs).  He practices as a barrister and solicitor from Napier, Hawkes Bay and lives there with his wife Phillippa of Ngāti Kahungunu and they have six children. 

Leo has worked as a lawyer since 1997 representing indigenous peoples in matters relating to land rights, natural resources, oil and gas, radio spectrum, fisheries, foreshore and seabed, space law and constitutional change.  Leo is a leading practitioner in Māori land law, representing clients in the Māori Land Court and appellate courts, and specialises in facilitation of landowner hui and engagement processes based which are inclusive of tikanga.  He lectures Māori land law at Otago University.  

Leo has been co-counsel in the cultural and intellectual property rights claim of Māori tribes to the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai262), and facilitates the Wai 262 Taumata Whakapūmau.  He advises a range of commercial clients on Maori intellectual property and traditional knowledge issues, including bioprospecting challenges and opportunities.  

Leo has also held the position of Chief Executive Officer of the tribal organisation Hokotehi Moriori Trust representing those of Moriori descent, who are the indigenous peoples of the Chatham Islands, assisting them with cultural, social and economic development. 

He actively assists in the community with te reo Māori and tikanga in the home and schools.  Leo is also a classical and blues/reggae violinist who takes youth rock group workshops.

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