From helping out at his uncle’s farm on semester break to leading prominent law firm’s national resource management team

April 30, 2024

“I am fascinated at seeing the development of schemes such as housing subdivisions. I believe that in the property industry I can contribute to development, but keep that in harmony with the environment.”

That was Joshua Leckie, aged 17, applying for a Keystone Scholarship – then known as the Graeme Bringans Property Education Trust (GBPET) student study award – in 2003.

“The skills Keystone has taught me are the connections and the personal growth, and teaching you how to be a genuine part of the industry.”   

How prescient he was. And how “chuffed” he is to look back on that statement today. Josh, now 38, is a partner at Lane Neave. He leads the prominent law firm’s national resource management team from his home base of Queenstown, and his clients include major property development and investment companies, iwi, and businesses with significant land use requirements.

He has a few Keystone firsts to his name: the first to be awarded a scholarship to study law; the first student to do a double degree – the other a Bachelor of Science – conjointly. He is also believed to be the trust’s most southern alumnus and the first happily hitched to a Dutch gentleman (husband Mats is the National Franchise Operations Manager at New Zealand Sotheby’s International Reality).

Josh grew up in Dunsdale, Southland, and went to Central Southland College.  The nearest city – Invercargill – is 39 kilometres away. Even going to Auckland for the [GBPET] interview was a “massive” deal, he says. (These days, his job sees him travel every week within New Zealand.)

His introduction to law came at the age of 13, when he got an after-school job at a local law firm and was paid $5.50 an hour to help out with tasks such as washing dishes and doing banking. He stayed with that firm until he left high school.

“In that sense, my idea of success in what I wanted to do was be a lawyer,” Josh says. But his vision was restricted to wills and trusts and dealing with estates – nothing else.

That all changed when he got his scholarship. “Keystone broadened my horizons – both geographically and in terms of what’s out there in the world of property development and law. That wasn’t part of my background and my knowledge. Keystone pushed me harder than I would ever have done.”

As an internationally recognised leading environment and resource management lawyer, Josh now acts on many of New Zealand’s most contentious resource management projects. His extensive client base includes Woolworths New Zealand, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Bathurst Resources and BT Mining, and Kiwirail

This is the same guy who, during semester breaks, worked on his great uncle’s fam, crutching sheep. His father said at the time it would keep his feet on the ground – and indeed it did. “But I was never destined to be a farmer.”

Instead, he completed his double degree at Otago University in five years and then made the great leap to Auckland, where he worked for Bell Gully – a key Keystone sponsor. First he was an intern, then a solicitor, and next a senior solicitor.

Now his old workplace has come back to greet him. “A few years ago I signed a lease and guarantee in the Vero Centre [in Auckland] for Lane Neave and I was reflecting how it didn’t feel that long ago that I was sitting at Bell Gully for the Keystone interview – and here we are signing a lease for office space in the same building. It was nice to go full circle,” he says. Likewise, the University of Otago, is another client secured by Josh.

Keystone, he says, is a truly special trust. “It’s not just about writing you a cheque and sending you on your way – and to be fair, that’s probably what I was most interested in when I was 17. The skills Keystone has taught me are the connections and the personal growth, and teaching you how to be a genuine part of the industry.”   At 17 I didn’t know that a lot of people can be smart lawyers, but it is an acquired skill to be a truly trusted advisor – my family of Keystone people taught me that and a few important life skills along the way.

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