National | Justice Christian Whata

Justice Christian Whata appointed Law Commissioner

High Court judge, Justice Christian Whata, has been appointed a member of the Law Commission Te Aka Matua o te Ture, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi announced on Friday.

The independent Crown entity has responsibility for reviewing New Zealand law and recommending improvements.

Justice Whata's (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Tamateatūtahi) one year term as a Law Commissioner will begin in October, where he will lead Te Aka Matua o te Ture’s work in relation to tikanga Māori, with a particular focus on the relationship between tikanga Māori and State law.

Photo Credit / Auckland District Law Society

President of Te Aka Matua o te Ture, Amokura Kawharu, said this was an important and timely project for the commission.

"Tikanga Māori has been steadily gaining recognition in the courts and in statutes. Te Kōti Mana Nui [the Supreme Court of New Zealand] has affirmed that tikanga Māori is among the values of the common law, and is perhaps determinative when dealing with matters affecting Māori rights and interests. Tikanga is also expressly recognised, in various ways, in many Acts of Parliament," Kawharu said in a commission statement.

"Yet for the most part, understanding of tikanga—what it is, its sources, and where and how it engages or should engage with State law— is limited."

On completion of his appointment, Justice Whata will return to the High Court bench.