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  • Will Irvine

Old Man Shouts at Law

WILL IRVINE (HE/HIM)


While you fools have been paying attention to the Drake-Kendrick beef, us wily reporters at Salient have had our eyes fixed on another brewing conflict—the beef between Winston Peters and the concept of Tikanga Māori. 


Last week, Koro Winnie (probably after a few too many bevvies) issued a press release condemning the integration of Tikanga Māori into the legal framework of Aotearoa as “cultural indoctrination”. Citing Gary Judd KC, Peters argued that requiring compulsory tikanga education for law students was a form of cultural indoctrination. Earlier this year, Mr. Judd made a formal complaint alleging the same thing. 


Keen-eyed law students reading this piece are likely scratching their head by this point. After all, courts have successfully implemented various forms of tikanga into the common law of Aotearoa New Zealand. While usually utilised in the area of Māori family law and civil proceedings, tikanga has occasionally played a role in criminal cases even when the parties involved are not Māori. It’s important to note that these decisions were not implemented by Parliament or Cabinet, but by the independent body of the judiciary—in other words, if there is any “indoctrination”, it’s being done by successive judges in accordance with the doctrine of precedent. 


Te Herenga Waka Law Professor Māmari Stephens said that Peters’ view on tikanga was misguided. “Law has more than one source”, she told Salient. “We’re in a position now where the highest court of this land has said that tikanga is law”. Professor Stephens said that Peters was defending a particular view of the nation-state. “There’s a coherence in the attack on the language, the attack on the concept of tikanga as law, the attack on Māori language signage, the attack on co-governance.” 


Professor Stephens said that lawyers needed to have an understanding of tikanga to do their job effectively. “We here at Victoria would do our students a disservice if we did not prepare them for that”. Despite Mr. Judd’s complaints and his backing from the Deputy Prime Minister, Stephens was not deterred. “Ultimately the effect of it is racist, but I’m not threatened by the position that’s been taken here. The work will continue regardless”


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