Judge Heemi Taumaunu of Auckland has been appointed as the Chief District Court Judge, Attorney-General David Parker announced today.
Judge Taumaunu, of Ngāti Pōrou and Ngāi Tahu descent, has held a District Court warrant since January 2004.
He developed and presided over the first Rangatahi Court in Gisborne in 2008 and encouraged fellow Judges to set up marae-based youth courts.
Auckland-based Judge Taumaunu sits in Rangatahi Courts at Auckland and Waitakere. In 2016 he was awarded the international Veillard-Cybukski Award recognising innovative work with children and families in difficulty.
He was appointed a Judge of the Court Martial in 2012 and in 2018 was appointed Deputy Judge Advocate-General and Deputy Chief Judge of the Court Martial.
David Parker said he considered access to justice and further development of specialist/therapeutic courts to be key priorities for the District Court.
Courts exist to meet the needs of the community and to uphold the rule of law.
A key focus of the Chief Judge will be the ongoing evaluation, and where appropriate wider implementation, of Specialist Court pilots.
* Rangatahi Courts and Pasifika Courts, which are culturally focussed Youth Courts;
* Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court, which are designed to supervise offenders whose offending is driven by their alcohol and other drug dependency;
* Sexual Violence Court, aimed to reduce delays for sexual violence trials and improve the courtroom experience for complainants while preserving the rights to a fair trial by the defendant;
* Family Violence Court, which is aimed at speedy resolution of family violence cases;
* New Beginnings and Special Circumstances Courts, to help homeless people;
* Matariki Court, established to address the over-representation of Māori in the justice system.
During the tenure of Chief Judge Taumaunu access to civil justice will also be addressed.
“The civil jurisdiction of the District Court has decreased to, largely, default and summary judgements. The reasons are complex but changes to District Court rules and processes are expected to be needed to reinvigorate this important function to enable more New Zealanders to cost-effectively resolve their disputes,” David Parker said.
In accepting the role of Chief District Court Judge, Judge Taumaunu said he envisaged holding the role for eight years.
“I intend to step aside from the Chief District Court Judge role after eight years. I want to make that clear from the outset, because I consider after a term of that length the court would benefit from fresh leadership,” Chief Judge Taumaunu said.