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, 539 KB]

We have a Chief Judge, a Deputy Chief Judge and 10 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 located in Wellington, but 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 National Park and Veterans 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.

(Former) Judge Glendyn (Nick) Carter

(Acting) Judge Glendyn (Nick) Carter

Judge Glendyn Carter was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 1 October 1989.

Before he retired in 2002 he was the resident Judge in the Waikato-Maniapoto District of the Māori Land Court, hearing applications in Hamilton, Thames, Tauranga and Te Kuiti.

On his retirement as a Judge he has since acted in a relieving capacity as an Acting Judge of the Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court where required and he has been involved in special projects for the court.

Judge Carter has also served on the Waitangi Tribunal as presiding officer for the Te Ika Whenua Rivers claim, as acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Samoa, as Judge of the Land and Titles Court of Samoa, as a Judge of the Cook Islands Court of Appeal and recently of the Niue Island Court of Appeal.

(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 Layne Harvey

Ngāti Awa, Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Kahungunu

Judge Layne Harvey

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

Based in Rotorua, he is the resident Judge for both the Aotea and Tākitimu Districts of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in New Plymouth, Hāwera, Whanganui, Levin, Palmerston North, Wellington and Hastings.

Before he was appointed, Judge Harvey practised for 11 years as a lawyer in Auckland with Simpson Grierson and with Walters Williams and Company, where he became a partner. His work included acting for iwi and hapū in Waitangi Tribunal claims and settlement negotiations, providing general advice to Māori organisations, and working in trust law and iwi legal and post-settlement governance structures.

Judge Harvey has also been a trustee of Māori land trusts, iwi authorities and Māori reservations and has been a member of the Council for Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi since 1997.

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 David Ambler

Judge David Ambler

Judge David Ambler was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 1 June 2006.

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

Judge Ambler graduated from the University of Auckland in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in Māori Studies and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons). Upon admission to the Bar in 1990, he went on to practise as a staff solicitor with Kensington Swan in Auckland. In 1992 he moved to Rotorua where he practised as a staff solicitor with East Brewster, later becoming a partner in 1997. He is also fluent in Te Reo Māori.

During his time as a lawyer, Judge Ambler advised and represented clients in relation to a range of Māori land issues and acted for a number of Māori Trust Boards, Māori land trusts and Incorporations as well as representing claimants in the Waitangi Tribunal (notably in Hauraki, Te Urewera, Wairarapa ki Tararua and the Central North Island).

Judge Ambler is a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and is the presiding officer for the Te Rohe Pōtae Inquiry District.

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.

Judge Stephen Clark

Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Hauā

Judge Stephen Clark

Judge Stephen Clark was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 25 January 2008.

Based in Hamilton, he is one of two resident Judges for the Waikato-Maniapoto District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in Thames, Tauranga, Hamilton and Te Kuiti.

Before he was appointed, he began practice initially as a law clerk with Sellar Bone and Partners in Auckland in 1987. He worked for the firm until 1990 when he joined McCaw Lewis Chapman in Hamilton where he became a litigation partner in 1996.

During his time as a lawyer he acted for a number of whānau, hapū, Iwi, Māori land trusts and Incorporations. He was also a foundation member and former president of Te Huinga Roia Māori o Aotearoa – the New Zealand Māori Law Society.

Judge Clark was also appointed as an alternate Environment Court Judge in 2009.

Judge Sarah Reeves

Te Ātiawa

Judge Sarah Reeves

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 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

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 Whangārei and Auckland.

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.

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