GISBORNE courthouse sittings today were opened in Maori and English as the nation’s courts move to adopt te reo in opening and closing announcements.
Today is the first day of Maori Language Week but the te reo move initiated by the District Courts Heads of Bench, supported by the Ministry of Justice procedure, is a permanent one.
Alistair Clarke, president of the Gisborne branch of the New Zealand Law Society of New Zealand, said the move was long overdue.
“It recognises the only other official language of New Zealand.
“The chief judge and others who implemented it are to be congratulated.”
Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue said the introduction of the Maori language was a historic change in the District Court process.
‘‘We wanted a practical way for District Courts to recognise te reo Maori as an official language of New Zealand.
“The Maori language is already established in some courts, such as the Maori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal, Rangatahi Youth Court and Matariki Court.
‘‘It will enhance proceedings and show appreciation for the cultural significance of the language in the court environment.’’
New Zealand Law Society president Jonathan Temm said it was surprising te reo Maori was only now being introduced, considering it had been an official language of New Zealand since 1987.
“It’s just a further step along the road of getting te reo the recognition Parliament clearly intended it to have when it made it one of the official languages.
“To the right thinking New Zealander, that’s just the way it is.”
Mr Temm said there had been no objections from the legal profession.
But others have voiced opposition.
Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokesman Garth McVicar called the move a waste of time.
“A lot of the victims that we deal with, their issues have been frustrated by the clogging within the court system at present.
“So, in my opinion, it’s pouring salt into the wound. What’s the benefit of it, realistically?”
Culture was well catered for within the courts, including Maori victim liaison officers, he said.
“We’re dealing with a court system that is overworked to the point of being dysfunctional and we’re just putting another stumbling block in the way.”
New Zealand First MP Winston Peters said: “If we’ve got any spare money to be tossing around at the courts, then let’s spend on better counsel and on facilities to speed up the justice system of this country.
“With the greatest respect, it’s not going to help the spread of the Maori language at all.”
Gisborne District Court staff have been training in-house for several weeks and practising te reo Maori phrases.
The phrases are:
• Turituri mo Tona Honore, te Kaiwhakawa, Taki tu — Silence for His/Her Honour the Judge. All stand.
• Kua tuwhera te Kooti a-Rohe — The District Court is now open.
• Turituri. Taki tu. Kua hiki te Kooti — Silence. All stand. The court is adjourned.
• Kua haere ano te Kooti — The court is resumed.