Sir David is married to the Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy. His role is to support her in the performance of her duties.
Sir David grew up in Blenheim. He attended Springlands School, then went on to Marlborough College, where he was Dux. He graduated from Victoria University with a Masters degree in Law.
Sir David was a partner and Chair of the law firm Watts & Patterson, which became Minter Ellision Rudd Watts. He has also served as a director of many New Zealand companies including as Chair of Transpower NZ, PSIS, (subsequently the Cooperative Bank), Mitsubishi Motors NZ, State Insurance and as Deputy Chair of NZ Post.
Sir David has been heavily involved with the arts, serving as Chair of the NZ Federation of Film Societies, the NZ Film Commission, the NZ International Festival of the Arts, the NZ Film Production Fund Trust and New Zealand Opera. He has also served as Deputy Chair of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, as a Trustee of the National Art Gallery Council and as a Board Member of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
In 2005, he was Chair of the Rugby World Cup 2011 Bid Advisory Committee, which prepared and oversaw the successful bid for hosting the Rugby World Cup tournament in New Zealand in 2011. He has subsequently acted in an advisory role to NZ Rugby. He has also acted as an advisor to the Auditor General of New Zealand.
He held office as Judicial Conduct Commissioner from 2009 to 2015.
Sir David was awarded a CBE for services to film in 1988. He received a Knighthood (KNZM) for services to the arts and business 2009.