A leading disputes and major projects lawyer, Cris Cureton’s areas of expertise include adjudication, arbitration and mediation; litigation and dispute resolution; major projects; public private partnerships; aboriginal heritage; and native title.

Cris’ practice spans the construction, energy and resources, mining and metals, oil and gas, government and infrastructure sectors. He is highly experienced in documenting front end project formation, advising on contract administration and representing parties at the back end in dispute resolution.

He has been named one of Australia's leading litigation lawyers by Best Lawyers since 2010, and he regularly appears for groups in commercial mediation, expert determination and other dispute resolution forums. Cris also has a leading role in arbitration and mediation initiatives in the Northern Territory, being the Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators Australia’s representative in the Northern Territory.

Cris has worked on many of the largest property, construction and engineering projects and disputes to have taken place in the Northern Territory over the last decade, including successfully resolving litigation for a multinational mine equipment supplier with a claim value of more than AU$300 million, and advising on major infrastructure projects such as the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway, Darwin Waterfront redevelopment, Darwin marine supply base, Betaloo Basin onshore gas exploration project and the Bonaparte gas pipeline.

With a wealth of energy and resources experience, he acts for parties acquiring interests in mining and petroleum tenements, and for multinational companies that maintain such assets.

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“Front end” Construction & Infrastructure

  • Drafting the supply and delivery contracts for the Darwin Port Corporation for the East Arm Wharf, Bulk Handling Materials facility.
  • Drafting suites of novation contracts relating to the development of a substantial residential complex.
  • Undertaking construction and development documentation for the developer of a 33-level residential building.
  • Developing, for the principal, the consultancy, project management and construction suite of documents for a premium office building designed by New York architects Pei Freedman.
  • Acting for the Darwin Department of Defence on the APIN Project (Stages 1 and 2), including preparing and providing contract administration advice on managing contractor, design and construct, novation and project management agreements.
  • Assisting the governments in the Northern Territory and South Australia with the Australasia Railway Project, including:
    • drafting the processes and protocols for the eliciting and assessment of the tenders from private consortia; 
    • participating as part of the Territory’s team in the negotiation and documentation of the agreements between the respective Territory, State and Commonwealth governments and railway authorities;
    • undertaking due diligence and compilation of data and materials for the projects existing infrastructure (Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway) and corridor information; 
    • assisting in drafting parts of the pivotal concession deed for the project;
    • coordinating advice and instructions on the project legislation; 
    • participating in the review of the legal issues arising from, and compliance of, participating consortia’s submissions; and
    • drafting lease terms and clearance arrangements for the railway corridor and new Darwin Port.
  • Procuring by a novation process for the former Darwin Power Water Authority; the design, installation and commissioning of the new generator for Darwin's Channel Island Power Station and drafting a suite of supply agreements for regional power stations and remote power control equipment.
  • Drafting commercial agreements for the tender, design, supply and installation of the Optus/Power Water Authority joint venture optic fibre rollout for the Northern Territory Government.
  • Acting for the Northern Territory Power Water Corporation in review of alternative funding proposals for the Underground Power Project and revising the subcontract suite of conditions for use by the managing contractor.
  • Acting for the Northern Territory Department of Defence on the construction of the Bradshaw Station Training Grounds and Victoria River Bridge (including drafting an agreement for the sharing of geotechnical information amongst tendering).
  • Advising on the engineering, procurement and contract management (EPCM) formation, administration and dispute issues for a global plant supplier, Metso Minerals, in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tanzania.
  • Drawing supply and power agreements for an international power equipment trader for supply of power equipment and provision of power supply in Laos and Cambodia.
  • Assisting the Northern Territory Power Water Corporation in complying with its legal requirements by preparing compliance registers of relevant legislation.
  • Compiling environmental and occupational health and safety registers for Macmahons Contractors to assist in its federal safety accreditation for projects in the Northern Territory, and BHP Billiton subsdiary GEMCO for its Groote Eylandt manganese mine.
  • Introducing into the construction industry in the Northern Territory new procurement laws and alliance contracts. To promote the introduction of Public Private Partnership (PPP) guidelines in the Northern Territory, Cris organised and chaired the public launch by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory of the draft PPP guidelines. Cris also sat on the working group of Government and industry representatives observing the implementation of the Guidelines that resulted from that conference.
  • Participating in review of public-private partnership proposals (PPP) and initiatives for the New South Wales and Queensland governments.
  • Assisting consortia members in construction contracting aspects of the Darwin Waterfront, Darwin Prison Precinct and Darwin Marine Supply Base PPP’s.
  • Drafting alliance contracts on behalf of McArthur River mine contractors and owner McArthur River Mines (a joint venture of Xstrata) in preparing for open cut mining operations.
  • Assisting with the early establishment of alliance contracts for the federal government’s billion dollar strategic indigenous housing project.
  • Drafting and advising on the first Early Contractor Involvement Contract for the Department of Infrastructure for a more than AU$100 million highway project.

“Back end” Construction & Infrastructure – Litigation

  • Acting on behalf of John Holland Pty Ltd (the largest building contractor in Australia and part of the Leighton Group) in its defence of current Northern Territory Supreme Court litigation in relation to a dispute concerning the Alice Springs Hospital. The litigation involves claims of numerous alleged defect items across mechanical, fire sprinklers, medical gas, electrical and hydraulics systems and non-compliant fire engineering design. The litigation has 18 third parties and three fourth parties joined and is at the forefront of electronic discovery and presentation of evidence.
  • Successfully resolving litigation for Metso Minerals with a claim value of more than AU$300 million surrounding the performance of mine processing equipment in four interrelated actions in the Supreme Courts of the Northern Territory and Queensland, and the Federal Court in Sydney. This litigation required the implementation and maintenance of a multi-site access case management system compliant with Court directed protocols for more than 200,000 discoverable documents across five locations in Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin.
  • Acting as junior counsel for a body corporate and residential and commercial unit holders in successfully pursuing the developer and designer of a residential and commercial complex for negligence and breach of the (then) Trade Practices Act which resulted in a landmark judgment in the development of the duty of care of builders (The Proprietors of Units Plan No 95/38 v Jiness Pty Ltd & Ors). This judgment saw an extension of the Bryan v Maloney principles of builder's negligence to premises that were partly commercial in nature.
  • Acting for a contractor on claims arising from heavy engineering works regarding a biofuel plant, a ship loader and Alcan’s G3 upgrade of the Gove alumina plant.
  • Acting on behalf of the Darwin Department of Defence regarding the whole of life supply and support of operational patrol boats, including disputes over the adequacy of design and performance of various systems and equipment.
  • Representing the Darwin Department of Defence on a professional negligence matter brought by the Department against an engineer and a contractor for defective hangar design and construction at RAAF Tindal.

“Back end” Construction & Infrastructure – Mediation 

Examples of recent mediations where Cris achieved successful outcomes for the client, include:

  • A multi-party mediation over a substantial and protracted regional development with disputes involving the government and approximately 10 other active participants representing more than 60 stakeholders concerning land use, property and access rights for a substantive subdivision.
  • A substantive misleading and deceptive conduct claim of more than AU$7 million against a national franchiser.
  • A petroleum explorer in dispute with a pastoralist who was provided uninhibited access to a pastoral property with agreed compensation regime to provide road upgrade and maintenance services.

“Back end” Construction & Infrastructure – Arbitration 

Cris has represented parties in numerous commercial arbitrations, including:

  • Undertaking a number of arbitrations in Sydney for contractors and an administrator of a contractor over the Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
  • Assisting in a substantial construction arbitration, which was subsequently the subject of court proceedings SASFIT v Leighton Contractors.
  • Acting in an international arbitration for a global mining supplier regarding a claim of defective crusher installed.
  • Appearing for a foreign national with maritime proceedings in the Federal Court in Australia and assisting with the commencement of an international arbitration in New York concerning his rights to maintain residency of berths bought on a luxury cruise ship that had entered Australian waters.

“Back end” Construction & Infrastructure – Adjudications  

Acting for parties in numerous adjudications under the Security for Payment legislation, some of the highlights of which include:

  • Acting for a global engineering company in two adjudications concerning engineering contract payment claims under the Security for Payment legislation relating to a 800 kilometre fibre optic cable laying project. The subcontractor brought an adjudication application for approximately AU$4.5 million delay and prevention costs against the client. Cris prepared an adjudication application against the principal and defended the subcontractor's application. The client received an adjudication determination (that was not contested) for the full amount from the principal and the subcontractor's application was reduced to nil.
  • Acting for a uranium producer in a successful defence of a substantial payment claim for plant processing works brought against it.
  • Acting for a national engineering company in adjudication regarding the construction of a natural gas pipeline and successfully recovering a substantial payment claim for the client.
  • Acting for a principal in successfully recovering payment claims for the costs of having another contractor complete work after termination for default of the contractor.
  • Acting for a number of clients who had to traverse court proceedings following adjudication determinations and successfully defending determinations.

Energy & Natural Resources

  • Assisting a Chinese state owned enterprise in due diligence, Foreign Investment Review Board and governance issues arising from its acquisition of interests in a number of publicly listed Australian explorers and pre-producers, including its interest in an Australian rare earth pre-producer.
  • Assisting AED Oil on its offshore exploration permits.
  • Advising the Northern Territory Government on its energy policy and concerns with warehousing prospective offshore petroleum areas.
  • Acting for a US based explorer Sweetpea Petroleum with onshore gas exploration permits in the Betaloo Basin, including tenement management, access issues and regulatory compliances.

Native Title

  • Acting for APA Group as the project proponent for the Bonaparte Gas Pipeline Project - the construction of the 400 kilometre plus gas pipeline from Wadeye to the North South Amadeus Gas Pipeline. Work involved documenting tenure and pipeline licence arrangements and coordinating clearance of the pipeline route through Aboriginal freehold land, pastoral leases, native title claims, and mineral leases and negotiating plant access and user arrangements with ENI. The pipeline was built ahead of time and on budget.
  • Acting for a number of mining and petroleum explorers (including US and Chinese clients) negotiating indigenous land use agreements with native title claimants and holders, and obtaining sacred sites clearances from the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Protection Authority.
  • Acting (as counsel assisting) for the Native Title Registrar in Federal Court proceedings naming the Native Title Tribunal as respondent.

Education

  • The University of Adelaide, LL.B., 1987
  • The University of Adelaide, B.A., 1986

Admissions

  • New South Wales
  • Southern Australia
  • Northern Territories, Australia
  • Recommended in The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2018 in Construction, Australia, and Dispute resolution, Australia
  • Recommended in The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2017 in Construction, Australia.
  • Ranked by Best Lawyers 2015 – Alternative Dispute Resolution, Litigation.
  • Ranked in Australasian Lawyer’s Hot 40 private practice lawyers for 2014.

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  • Speaker, “Security for Payment - Contractor's Obligations”, NT Property Council and NT Minerals Council, Territory Construction Association.
  • Speaker, “Native Title – Land Access Agreements”, Department of Planning and Infrastructure Conference.
  • Author, “The Role of the Private Sector and Providing Public Infrastructure”, The Australian Institute of Project Management.
  • Author, “Benefits & Opportunities in Private Infrastructure Development for the Northern Territory”, Australian Industry Development Corporation.
  • Chair, “Procurement Strategies for Construction Projects in Asia”, LAWASIA Construction Law Standing Committee Conference (Kuala Lumpur).
  • Author, “Litigation, Arbitration and Alternate Dispute Resolution; Unduly Categorised”, Bi-annual LAWASIA Conference.
  • Author, “Builder’s Negligence: Recent Developments”, Law Society of NSW Continuing Legal Education Series.
  • Chair and co-ordinator, 2003 PPP Symposium, launching the Northern Territory PPP Guidelines.
  • Chair, “Risk Management for Engineers”, Association of Consulting Engineers Australia Workshop Day. 
  • Presenter and working group facilitator, Northern Territory Economic Development Forum.

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