National | Metiria Turei

Metiria Turei out of politics but still fighting for change

Former Green Party co-leader Metiria Tūrei is about to start in her new role as pūkenga matua at the University of Otago faculty of law.

Already her mahi is making an impact on the makeup of the New Zealand legal system, her research helping inform a recent survey of the legal profession around attitudes towards Māori and the law.
She says her new path in life since leaving Parliament in 2017, which saw her complete an arts degree before undertaking a masters course in Law, was good for the mind.

"One thing about Parliament is it's good for immediate issues and dealing with the day to day but you really need time to have thinking and learning new things."

Her studies led to her becoming a co-author with Professor Jacinta Ruru of a survey released last week that showed more than 90 per cent of legal professionals supported the idea that judges and lawyers should have a greater understanding of tikanga Māori, while 75 percent felt passing Te Reo Māori papers should be a requirement for law students. She says it's becoming apparent the judicial system is becoming more accepting of Te Ao Māori.

Courts want more tikanga submissions

"The courts are asking for more advice and more submissions on Māori Law, what the tikanga Māori approach is to this legal issue. We've seen that, particularly with more and more Māori judges in the Court of Appeal, and of course with Sir Joe [Williams] in the Supreme Court. So the courts are demanding a Māori response, a tikanga Māori response to issues. The legal practitioners know that if they want to engage with Māori in any form, they're going to have to be more responsive and understanding of tikanga Māori, and Te Reo Māori."

It's a far cry, she says, from her days as an undergraduate law student.

"When I was at law school in Auckland, there was a campaign to try and have one of the Māori lecturers, one of the few Māori women lecturers we had there fired because she was teaching Treaty of Waitangi settlement law. "

Despite being away from the political rough and tumble of Parliament, she still keeps an eye on the goings-on in Wellington. She says those who are currently occupying the grounds in front of the Houses of Parliament should rethink their approach.

"There are people down there who believe themselves to be responsible and supportive of tikanga Māori, well it's not tika to be there when the mana whenua have said 'go home'. Actually it is just active colonisation, by those Pākehā people down there at the moment. So they need to go home too."

Tūrei will begin her new role at Otago University next week.