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2010 marked the start of a new decade and new beginnings for property, business, and trust specialist Mike Toepfer. He and his family relocated to Wanaka after being captivated by the area during holidays. Mike joined AWS Legal after 17 years at major Auckland law firm Hesketh Henry, where he was also a Partner. He served for a decade on the firm’s board of management and led its commercial property team.
With a lengthy career in both residential and commercial property law, he’s been heavily involved in high-end complex transactions, including inner-city office blocks, multi-storied apartments, and subdivisions with several hundred sections.
And while the nature of some of the transactions might be different in Wanaka, Mike says the Lakes District is renowned for punching well above its weight when it comes to innovative and exciting projects.
“For a relatively small population, this is such an active area, not just in developing land, but also in growth sectors such as tourism and vineyards.”
“There are few areas in New Zealand like Wanaka where, as a lawyer, you can have the best of the both worlds—a great lifestyle away from the city, as well as the opportunity to be involved in really interesting and dynamic work.”
Together with his significant expertise in residential and commercial property, Mike also brings wider business law experience and a particular interest in trusts. As well as advising families and businesses on establishing and effectively managing trusts, he has served as an independent trustee for several high-profile organisations, including a decade on the McCahon House Trust. “The trust acquired the house in Titiranga, where Colin McCahon lived in the fifties and sixties, restoring it and then building an artist’s residence next door. It now operates a three-month residency programme where artists live and work.”
“I was also a trustee of the Kulka Foundation, which aimed to raise awareness of architect Henry Kulka, including acquiring houses and furniture he had designed.”
Born in Chicago, Mike settled in Auckland when he was 10, graduating from Auckland University in 1984 with his LLB (Hons). He moved to Hesketh Henry after practising law for seven years at prominent firm Russell McVeagh. Among his many professional interests, he served three years as the Honorary Swedish Consul for Auckland and the upper North Island.
Equally accustomed to working with individuals, families, and businesses, Mike says in his experience—aside from receiving quality advice—clients want and deserve certainty.
“For me, it’s about being accessible to my clients, really taking a personal approach and building strong relationships. It’s not just about returning phone calls and responding to e-mails, but doing so promptly and not leaving people waiting and wondering.”
Outside of work, Mike has found himself right at home in the Wanaka landscape. An avid sportsman, he runs, cycles, tramps, dives, and skis.