Changing the law for Aotearoa New Zealand

Published date : Wed, 18 October 2023 05:05 pm

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi has played an instrumental role in ensuring that Māori tikanga is firmly embedded throughout the Aotearoa legal system.

Chief Executive Professor Wiremu Doherty and distinguished professors Sir Hirini Moko Mead and Sir Pou Temara have all contributed to the creation of He Poutama, a professional development study tool for the judiciary. Commissioned by the Minister of Justice in 2021 and led by Hon Justice Christian Whata, the 300-page report looks at how tikanga relates to common law and state law, and how they all work together.  

Professor Doherty facilitated a series of workshops with experts from around the country to help establish how tikanga applies across the entire body of New Zealand law.

He explained: “Our role was to explain what tikanga is, its important role as the first law of the country and its relevance to the legal system today. This report is transformational and will set a precedent that will truly change the entire Aotearoa legal system.”

Hon Justice Christian Whata says the study clearly shows the extent to which tikanga is influencing law.

“Throughout the project, we have been focused on the deep significance of tikanga to Māori and the importance for both tikanga and law of improving general understanding of tikanga while proceeding with care. We asked pūkenga (experts) to guide us and have aimed to give an account of tikanga for those engaging with it in a legal context that is both authentic and connected with the law.”

The Wānanga is happy to support the embedding of He Poutama and its recommendations, with Professors Wiremu Doherty, Sir Hirini Moko Mead and Sir Pou Temara all part of a group of tikanga experts who can support the judiciary on its application to future legal decisions if needed.

He Poutama is just one of the ways that TWWoA is contributing to the development of cultural capability within the Aotearoa judiciary. In February 2024, the Wānanga will also be launching Pourewa Tikanga Māori me te Ture (Post Graduate Diploma in Tikanga and Law), focusing on tikanga as part of legal practice.

Tikanga in Law working group

Tikanga in Law working group facilitated by Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi CEO, Professor Wiremu Doherty

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