Former St Joseph's Māori Girls' College student made High Court judge

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Senior barrister and solicitor Kiri Tahana has been appointed as Aotearoa's newest high court judge.

After an extensive career in commercial and corporate law, including advising on Te Tiriti o Waitangi matters, the Ngāti Pikiao lawyer is looking forward to her new role, as she moves from advisory to decision making.

“[It’s] exciting but it also comes with a lot of responsibility, so I feel very privileged and humbled to be able to take on this new role.”

The role includes hearing criminal and civil disputes and also appeals from the specialist courts such as the Environment Court.

“It’s very much a broad range of work across multiple areas of law.”

As a former St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College student, when Tahana first found out she would become a High Court judge, one of the first people she told about the good news and thank was her former principal, Dame Georgina Kingi.

Led by a wahine toa

“I very much believe that it is because of the grounding that I got at Hato Hōhepa. It was there that I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I was so blessed and so privileged to be able to be educated in a Māori environment and to be led by a wahine toa like Miss Kingi, who really taught me the value of hard work and discipline.”

Tahana also paid tribute to her fellow St Joseph’s friends.

“We lived whanaungatanga with our Hato Hōhepa sisters who, today, remain very important to me. They played a huge part.”

Tahana believes that having more Māori judges will mean more equitable outcomes for Māori.

“I think it’s critical that our judiciary reflects the community that we serve. We have already seen Justice Joe Williams and Justice [Christian] Whata on the High Court. The difference that it makes when you have expertise and understanding of te reo, tikanga and te ao Māori, it’s hugely important to Aotearoa."

Tahana will be sworn into the role on May 27 and will start officially on May 30.