New Chief District Court Judge carries on kaupapa of change

By Wena Harawira

The innovative practices of Māori focused courts can provide better examples of court practice and transformative change.

That’s the view of Heemi Taumaunu, the first Māori to be appointed as Chief District Court Judge.

The Rangatahi Court which deals with youth offenders in a marae setting, and the Matariki Court, which allows cultural rehabilitation programmes for offenders, have been running for several years.

“These are initiatives that have been taken in the district court over the last decade,” says Chief Judge Taumaunu. “They are providing examples of best practice and can be applied, in principle at least, across the board.”

Māori calls for transformative change through initiatives such as Puao-Te-Atatū have been around for decades, he said, and improving access to justice and fairer treatment of people are priorities.  

“Our focus will be on ensuring that they do feel or believe that they have had a fair hearing. The way that we deal with people, is just as important as the actual outcome. And for some people, the way that we deal with them is actually more important than the outcome itself.”

Chief Judge Taumaunu also wants to improve the cultural competency of judges so they can navigate the various communities they encounter in their work.