Our judges

Our judges are appointed by warrant issued by the Governor-General of New Zealand. A suitable person may only be appointed as a judge:

  • having regard to their knowledge and experience of Te Reo Māori, tikanga Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi
  • only after they have held a practising certificate as a barrister or solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand for at least 7 years
  • if they are not older than 70
  • if the total number of judges does not exceed 14.

Read an index of past and present judicial officers of the Māori Land Court and Native Land Court [PDF, 356 KB]

We have a Chief Judge, a Deputy Chief Judge and 12 regionally based Judges. Our current judges are (in order of seniority):

Chief Judge Wilson Isaac

Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu

Chief Judge Wilson Isaac

Chief Judge Wilson Isaac was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 11 March 1994. In 1999, he was appointed Deputy Chief Judge and, on 13 August 2009, he was appointed Chief Judge.

Chief Judge Isaac is based in Gisborne, and continues to hear applications in the Tairāwhiti District of the Māori Land Court.

In addition to Māori Land Court, he is also the current Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal and has presided over the Mohaka ki Ahuriri and Northern South Island Waitangi Tribunal hearings and is currently presiding over the Freshwater and Veterans (kaupapa) inquiries.

Deputy Chief Judge Caren Fox

Ngāti Porou

Deputy Chief Judge Caren Fox

Deputy Chief Judge Caren Fox was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 1 October 2000 and was later appointed as Deputy Chief Judge on 20 February 2010.

She is located in Gisborne and is the resident Judge for the Tairāwhiti District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in Ruatōria and Gisborne.

Before becoming a Judge, Deputy Chief Judge Fox was a lecturer in law at Victoria University, and a Senior Lecturer in law and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Waikato. In addition, she acted as legal counsel for Treaty claimants and Māori land clients.

A specialist in international human rights, Deputy Chief Judge Fox was a Harkness Fellow to the USA from 1991 to 1992 and a Pacific Fellow in Human Rights Education employed by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation 1997-1999. For her work in human rights she won the NZ Human Rights Commission 2000 Millennium Medal.

Deputy Chief Judge Fox is also a Waitangi Tribunal member and has been a presiding officer for the Aquaculture claims, the Te Arawa Mandate and Settlement claims and the Central North Island Stage 1 claims. She is currently the presiding officer for the Porirua ki Manawatu claims.

Deputy Chief Judge Fox was also appointed as an Alternate Environment Court Judge in 2009.

(Acting) Judge Patrick Savage

Te Whānau a Ruataupare

(Acting) Judge Patrick Savage

Judge Pat Savage was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 7 July 1994.

Before he retired in 2015 he was the resident Judge in the Waiariki District of the Māori Land Court, hearing applications in Rotorua, Taupō, Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki.

On his retirement as a Judge he was issued with an acting warrant and continues to provide assistance in a relieving capacity as an Acting Judge of the Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court.

Judge Savage is the current Deputy Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal and he has previously presided over the Kiwifruit Export and Radio Spectrum claims and he is the presiding officer for the Te Urewera Inquiry District.

Before he was appointed he served as the Crown Solicitor for the Bay of Plenty region.

Judge Carrie Wainwright

Carrie Wainwright was appointed to the Māori Land Court bench in 2000.

She presided in the Wairarapa ki Tararua and Whanganui district inquiries, and undertook many urgent inquiries, articularly concerning Crown Treaty settlement policy. These culminated in the Tāmaki Makaurau Settlement Process Report 2007. She also led the Foreshore and Seabed Tribuna in 2004.

Judge Wainwright sat in other jurisdictions for a number of years (District Court, Immigration Protection Tribunal), but returned to the Waitangi Tribunal and Māori Land Court in 2017. She has lately been presiding in inquiries concerning remedies, and in particular applications for binding recommendations, involving claimants in the far and in Wairarapa.

Judge Layne Harvey

Ngāti Awa, Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa

Judge Layne Harvey

 

 

Layne Harvey was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 1 September 2002. 

Based in Rotorua, he is the resident Judge for the Aotea and Tākitimu districts, hearing cases in New Plymouth, Te Hāwera, Whanganui, Turangi and Hastings.  He has also presided over the South Island Landless Natives, Offender Assessment Policies, Petroleum and Taihape District Inquiry claims before the Waitangi Tribunal.

Before he was appointed, Judge Harvey graduated with LLB and MCom Law degrees from The University of Auckland in 1992 and 2000 respectively and was a foundation member of Te Rākau Ture in 1990 and was the inaugural Māori Student Support Co-ordinator in 1991.  He was in practice for 10 years between 1992 and 2002 with Simpson Grierson and Walters Williams, where he became a partner in 2000. His work included acting for iwi, hapū and whānau in Waitangi Tribunal claims and settlement negotiations and in the Māori Land and Appellate Courts, providing general advice to Māori organisations, working with Māori land trusts, incorporations and marae and with tribal post-settlement governance entities.  He also provided advice on consultation with Māori to local authorities and corporates.

Judge Harvey has been a trustee of Māori land trusts, iwi authorities, Māori reservations and social service providers.  He has been a member of the board for Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi since 1994 and was elected chairperson in September 2020.  He received an Honorary Doctorate in Māori Development from that institution in 2015 and became the first graduate at AUT University with a doctorate in Law in 2018, where he has been a Visiting Judicial Fellow since 2013.  He also co-teaches Māori Land Law at The University of Auckland.  In 2018 he co-authored Mataatua – te whare i hoki mai and contributed a chapter on the Ngāti Awa experience of raupatu in Te Putake o Te Riri.  Judge Harvey has contributed a chapter on Māori land in Land Registration and Title Security in the Digital Age New Horizons for Torrens and will also provide a chapter on Māori land law and governance in two books to be published on Māori law in 2020 and 2021.  Judge Harvey remains involved in tribal activities holding hapū wānanga and noho marae on tribal history and whakapapa.  He has been chairman of Te Reo Irirangi o Te Mānuka Tūtahi Trust, the Ngāti Awa iwi radio station since 1995 and is a trustee of Te Tira Whakaari Trust based in Gisborne which is involved in providing community-based education on the influence of Te Kooti Rikirangi. 

In September 2018, Judge Harvey was also appointed an alternate judge of the Environment Court.

Judge Stephanie Milroy

Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Whakaue

Judge Stephanie Milroy

Judge Stephanie Milroy was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 9 September 2002.

Based in Hamilton, she is one of two resident Judges for the Waikato-Maniapoto District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases primarily in Hamilton.

Before she was appointed, Judge Milroy was a senior lecturer in law at the University of Waikato and was also an associated partner at Harkness Henry and Co, Barristers and Solicitors. She has also previously held the role of a senior investigating solicitor at the Commercial Affairs Department in Hamilton.

Judge Milroy has considerable knowledge of Treaty and Māori legal issues through her research and lecturing. She has also presented and published numerous articles on different Māori topics. She is a member of the Waitangi Tribunal, serving as the Deputy Chairperson from 2010 to 2015.

Judge Craig Coxhead

Ngāti Makino, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Maru

Judge Craig Coxhead

Judge Craig Coxhead was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 25 January 2008.

Based in Rotorua, he is the resident Judge for the Waiariki District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in Rotorua, Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki.

Judge Coxhead graduated from the University of Waikato Law School with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) in 1994 and was admitted to the Bar in 1995. He later completed a Master of Laws degree in 2000.

Before he was appointed, he worked in private practice with McCaw Lewis Chapman mainly in the areas of Treaty of Waitangi, Māori land issues, criminal and general civil litigation. Following private practice he became a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato Law School lecturing in both graduate and post-graduate courses. He has also served as a former president of Te Huinga Roia Māori o Aotearoa – the New Zealand Māori Law Society.

Judge Coxhead is a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and is the presiding officer for the Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry District. In 2011 he was appointed as a High Court Judge in Niue, in 2016 as a Justice of the High Court of the Cook Islands, and, more recently in 2018, replaced Judge Pat Savage as the Chief Justice of Niue.

Judge Sarah Reeves

Te Ātiawa

Judge Sarah Reeves was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 10 December 2010.

Based in Wellington, she is the resident Judge for the Te Waipounamu District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and the Chatham Islands.

Judge Reeves graduated with a Bachelor of Law from the University of Otago and was admitted to the Bar in 1985. She has practised in New Zealand, Rarotonga, Singapore and Hong Kong specialising in commercial and property law. Before she was appointed she acted as the senior in-house counsel for the Auckland City Council.

Judge Reeves has presided over Waitangi Tribunal inquiries concerning the MV Rena, the Ngā Puhi mandate and the Ngātiwai mandate. She is the current presiding officer of the Mana Wahine inquiry and the Ngāti Maniapoto mandate inquiry.

In addition to her current Māori Land Court and Waitangi Tribunal roles, Judge Reeves was also appointed as a High Court Judge in Niue in 2014.

Judge Michael Doogan

Judge Michael Doogan

Judge Michael Doogan was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 25 January 2013.

Based in Wellington, he provides support for hearings around the country although he primarily hears cases in Masterton, Levin and Wellington.

Judge Doogan graduated from Massey University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1983 going onto graduate with a Bachelor of Law from the University of Otago in 1986. He commenced work as a Judges’ clerk in Hamilton in 1986 and worked in private practice and in local government in Wellington before moving to England in 1990. Between 1990 and 1995 he worked in private practice in England before returning to New Zealand to take up a position with Simpson Grierson in Wellington. In 1998 he joined the Crown Law Office’s Treaty Issues and International Law Team.

Before he was appointed he was practising as a barrister sole in Wellington.

Judge Doogan has extensive experience in both the Waitangi Tribunal and Māori Land Court.

Judge Miharo Armstrong

Te Whānau a Apanui

Judge Miharo Armstrong was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 1 August 2014.

Based in Whangārei, he is one of two resident Judges for the Taitokerau District of the Māori Land Court and hears cases in Kaitaia and Kaikohe.

Judge Armstrong graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Waikato in 2001 and was admitted to the Bar later the same year. He then moved to London where he worked as a paralegal in commercial mergers, acquisitions and insolvency before moving to an in-house legal team with the London Borough of Enfield where he regularly appeared before the County Courts. He returned to New Zealand in 2004 to practise in Rotorua where he became a partner at Aurere Law in 2010.

Judge Armstrong has extensive experience in the Waitangi Tribunal and the Māori Land Court. He has acted for Māori land owners, trusts, incorporations, post-settlement governance entities, whānau, hapū and Iwi. He also has experience in other areas of the law appearing before the District Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of New Zealand. In addition to his Māori Land Court role, in 2018, Judge Armstrong was also appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Niue.

Judge Terena Wara

Waikato, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga

Judge Terena Wara was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 1 March 2019.

Based in Whangārei, she is one of two resident Judges for the Taitokerau District of the Māori Land Court and hears cases in Whangārei and Auckland.

Judge Wara graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Waikato in 2006 and was admitted to the Bar later the same year. Before being appointed to the Māori Land Court, Judge Wara was a director of Tu Pono Legal which she co-founded in 2014. While in practice she specialised in resolving Maori legal issues, acting for clients across a range of issues in both general practice and litigation. Judge Wara has broad experience in both the Waitangi Tribunal and the Māori Land Court, acting for whānau, hapū and iwi.

Judge Terena Wara is also a member of the Waitangi Tribunal.

Judge Damian Stone

Ngāti Kahungunu

Judge Damian Stone was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 25 January 2019.

Based in Wellington, he is the resident judge for Wellington and Thames, but also provides support for hearings around the country.

Before being appointed to the Māori Land Court, Judge Damian Stone was the Managing Partner of Kāhui Legal, a speacialist Māori law firm. In that capacity he acted for a number of Māori clients around the country on a range of issues, including Treaty of Waitangi settlement negotiations, Waitangi Tribunal claims, commercial negotiations and contract drafting, corporate and commercial law and litigation. Prior to becoming a partner of Kāhui Legal, he worked for a large national law firm for 10 years and was also General Counsel for Te Ohu Kai Moana. He is a former co-president of Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa (the Māori Law Society), a former member of the Hazardous substances and New Organisms Committee, a former member of the Advertising Standards Complaints Board and a former member of a New Zealand Law Society Standards Committee. He was also the chairperson of an education-based trust in his home town of Porirua.

Judge Damian Stone is also a member of the Waitangi Tribunal.

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