Leo Donnelly


Leo Donnelly ONZM is a former Ombudsman of New Zealand and is one of New Zealand’s leading experts in official information and privacy law. As an Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman and a senior investigator at the Office of the Ombudsman, Leo spent 3 decades investigating and reviewing complaints about the administrative actions and procedures of state sector organisations and recommending resolutions to promote fair, just and transparent delivery of services to the public. This involved assessing individual actions and omissions in the context of an organisations systems and culture and statutory responsibilities. Leo brings governance and strategy expertise and wide experience in complaint handling and dispute resolution. Leo’s specialist skills and experience include identifying practical solutions within the law that satisfactorily resolve complaints by individuals who believe they have been treated in an unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory manner.

In his Deputy Ombudsman and Ombudsman roles, Leo was an advocate for citizens seeking redress where they had been treated unfairly or where they had no voice and needed assistance in speaking truth to power. He has continued this in the last 4 years as a Special Counsel and then Principal at Chen Palmer. As a barrister, Leo will continue to provide advocacy and legal advice in his specialist areas of Public law, Information law, Privacy and Education law. He will also be available to undertake investigations and assist clients in gaining the best advantage in Official Information and Privacy Act requests and in pursuing complaints with the Ombudsmen, Privacy Commissioner, Health and Disability Commissioner and claims in the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Leo has an LLB from Victoria University of Wellington and was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List. Leo is a member of the Executive Committee of the Australia New Zealand Education Law Association (ANZELA) and is General Secretary of the Oceania Karate Federation and Secretary of Karate Auckland. Leo is of NZ/Japanese ethnicity and holds a 7th Dan Black Belt in Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate.