Roll out is expected this year
The Gisborne District Court has announced that it would join Hamilton in implementing the Te Ao Mārama model, which is expected to be rolled out this year.
In a statement, Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu said the adoption of the new model “represents a response to longstanding calls for transformative change to the justice system” to better “reflect the needs of a modern-day Aotearoa New Zealand.”
“Te Ao Mārama means the world of light,” he said. “For the District Court, it means a more enlightened approach to justice to help make New Zealand a better place to live in. It means a court where all people may seek justice, regardless of their means or abilities, their ethnicity, language or culture, and who they are or where they are from.”
The new model, which will be implemented with the support of the Ministry of Justice, will use a solution-focused judging approach in mainstream courts while drawing on best practices adopted in the district court’s specialist courts – such as increasing community involvement, infusing tikanga Māori, and using plain language and toning down formalities in court.
The concept builds on previous models of justice delivery, including the Rangatahi Courts and Te Pae Oranga (Iwi Community Panels) initiatives, which started in Gisborne.
Taumaunu said the Gisborne District Court was chosen to adopt the new model for several reasons.
“While Hamilton is a larger metropolitan court, Gisborne provides an opportunity for a smaller, regional court to adopt this new approach,” he said. “The Gisborne District Court is well supported by its local community, with services and agencies willing and available to help ensure that the underlying needs of those affected by the business of the court can be addressed.”
Meanwhile, Tiana Epati, president of the New Zealand Law Society, expressed delight that Gisborne was chosen as the first regional court to implement the Te Ao Mārama model.
“When Chief Judge Taumaunu called a hui weeks ago, to gauge whether local lawyers had an appetite to develop the Te Ao Mārama model, there was a resounding response,” she said. “The short notice hui was packed with lawyers from both prosecution and defence, along with community leaders and justice professionals – illustrating the passion and energy to do things differently.”
Taumaunu said that the success of the model relies on a spirit of partnership with “local iwi and through engagement with local communities, justice sector representatives and representatives of the legal profession, both nationally and locally.”
The Te Ao Mārama model also aims to infuse tikanga and te reo into mainstream court proceedings to recognise the importance of creating a court environment that looks and feels “unmistakably like Aotearoa New Zealand” and reflects the two founding cultures in a spirit of partnership under the Treaty of Waitangi.