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

Judge Wilson Isaac was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 11 March 1994 and was appointed as Deputy Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court in 1999 and the Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court on 13 August 2009. He is one of the resident Judges for the Tairāwhiti District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in Wairoa.  He is also a Judge of the High Court of Niue and the High Court of the Cook Islands.

Chief Judge Wilson Isaac is also Chair of the Waitangi Tribunal. He was appointed in 2009 and has presided over the Mohaka Ki Ahuriri Inquiry, the Northern South Island Inquiry and National Park District Inquiry, the Freshwater and Geothermal Resources Inquiry and the Napier Hospital and Health Services Report Inquiries. He is currently the Presiding Officer for the Māori Military Veterans Inquiry and the Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry into Remaining Historical Claims.

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 one of the resident Judges for the Tairāwhiti District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in 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 has also been the presiding officer for the Waitangi Tribunal on the Aquaculture claims, the Te Arawa Mandate and Settlement claims, Central North Island Stage 1 claims, the Te Kōhanga Reo claims and the Te Rohe Pōtae 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.

Judge Sarah Reeves

Te Ātiawa

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

Based in Wellington, she is one of the two resident Judges for the Te Waipounamu District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in Christchurch 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 was a senior in-house counsel for the Auckland City Council.

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

Carrie Wainwright was appointed to the Māori Land Court bench on 17 November 2000.

She presided in the Wairarapa ki Tararua and Whanganui district inquiries and undertook many urgent inquiries, particularly concerning Crown Treaty settlement policy.  These culminated in the Tāmaki Makaurau Settlement Process Report 2007.  She also led the Foreshore and Seabed Tribunal 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 North and in Wairarapa.  Judge Wainwright has specialised in mediating both in the Māori Land Court and the Waitangi Tribunal.

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 Te Waipounamu District of the Māori Land Court, hearing cases in Blenheim, Nelson, Invercargill and Dunedin.

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 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 and Taupō.

Judge Coxhead graduated from the University of Waikato Law School firstly with a Bachelor of Social Sciences and then 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, Judge Coxhead 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 Hunga Rōia 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, as the Chief Justice of Niue.

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 in the Aotea District of the Māori Land Court and hears cases in Taumarunui, Tūrangi, Palmerston North and Porirua.

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 in the Public Law team with Simpson Grierson in Wellington.  In 1998 he joined the Crown Law Office’s Treaty Issues and International Law Team.

In 2005 Judge Doogan commenced practise as a barrister sole in Wellington. As a barrister, Judge Doogan represented a range of Māori clients before the Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal.

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 the resident Judges for the Taitokerau District of the Māori Land Court hearing 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 landowners, 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.

She is one of two resident Judges for the Waiariki District of the Māori Land Court and hears cases in Whakatāne, Ōpotiki and Tauranga (Waikato Maniapoto District of the Māori Land Court).

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 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 March 2019.

Based in Wellington, he is the resident judge for the Tākitimu District of the Māori Land Court hearing cases in Hastings, Masterton and Levin (Aotea District of the Māori Land Court).

Before being appointed to the Māori Land Court, Judge Damian Stone was the Managing Partner of Kāhui Legal, a specialist 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 Rōia Māori o Aotearoa (the Māori Law Society), a former member of the Hazardous substances and New Organisms Committee, 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 hometown of Porirua.

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

Judge Aidan Warren

Rangitāne, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Pākeha, Cherokee Nation

Judge Aidan Warren was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 30 September 2021. Based in Hamilton, he is the resident judge for the Aotea District of the Māori Land Court hearing cases in Whanganui, Te Hāwera and New Plymouth.

Judge Warren graduated with a Master of Laws from Te Piringa – University of Waikato in 2000. He was in private practice for nearly 22 years at Hamilton law firm, McCaw Lewis. In 2008 he was appointed as a Partner and then a Director when the firm incorporated in 2011. He was also the Managing Director from 2011 to 2021.

He has acted for a number of Māori clients across the country on a wide range of issues affecting whānau, hapū and iwi. He has specialised in Māori legal issues including Treaty settlements, post-settlement governance advice for iwi groups, Māori land law, resource management, Waitangi Tribunal and general public law disputes, appearing before various Courts.

He is an accredited and experienced Mediator and has been involved in mediations both in Aotearoa and Samoa, both as a mediator and trainer for a number of years. He is also a former Tūmuaki Tāne of Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa.

Judge Warren is married to Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren of the Supreme Court of Samoa and they have four tamariki, Tatiana, Phillip, Mahinaarangi and Misiviliamu.

Judge Warren is also a member of the Waitangi Tribunal.

Judge Rachel Mullins

Ngati Kahungungu, Kai Tahu

Judge Rachel Mullins was appointed to the Maori Land Court on 30 September 2021.  Based in Hamilton she is one of two resident Judges for the Waikato-Maniapoto District of the Maori Land Court, hearing cases in Hamilton, Te Kuiti and Thames.

Before she was appointed, Judge Mullins was the Director of her own sole practice firm specialising in Maori land law and Education Law.  Judge Mullins was also one of the Deputy Chairs of the Teachers’ Disciplinary Tribunal.  Prior to establishing her own firm, Judge Mullins  worked at a large Hamilton law firm managing the Maori Land practice as well as acting for clients in the Waitangi Tribunal, Treaty settlement negotiations and estate disputes.

A proud graduate of the University of Otago Judge Mullins began her legal career at the Ngai Tahu Maori Law Centre in Dunedin. Community Law has always been close to her heart, and she is the Independent Maori Board Member on the Community Law Centres of Aotearoa National Board. 

Judge Mullins is a former Tumuaki Wahine of Te Hunga Roia Maori o Aotearoa (Maori Law Society) and has sat on the national executive in various roles for many years.

Judge Mullins and her husband Luke have three tamariki who keep them busy with their various kura and sporting activities.  

Judge Mullins is also a member of the Waitangi Tribunal.

Judge Te Kani Williams

Tuhoe, Whakatohea, Ngai Tai ki Torere, Ngati Manawa, Ngati Maniapoto, Tainui, Te Aupouri

Judge Te Kani Williams was appointed to the Māori Land Court on 30 September 2021.  He is one of the resident Judges for the Taitokerau District of the Māori Land Court hearing cases in Whāngarei and Auckland (North and South).

Judge Willliams’ mother is from Tūhoe, Ngati Manawa and Ngati Maniapoto and his father is from Whakatōhea, Ngai Tai ki Torere, Tainui, and Te Aupouri. They were and are both teachers and as result Judge Williams’ has had the privilege of being brought up in areas such as Te Whetu, Kawhia, Patea and Ruatoki. It was as a result of attending Primary School in Ruatoki that he learnt to speak Māori before he was then sent to Auckland to attend Boarding School at Mt Albert Grammar School where he was one of two boys who studied Māori in what was a boys only school with a population of 1,200. Whilst there he was fortunate enough to play in a number of the schools top sports teams (Softball, Tennis, Squash, Rowing and Rugby) and represented Auckland in the Auckland Secondary Schools Rugby Team in 1984.

Judge Williams’ then attended Auckland Institute of Technology (as it was known then) for two years studying Chartered Accountancy, before transferring to Auckland University to study conjoint Law and Arts degrees and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Māori in 1994 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1995.  He had joined the law practice of C.J.McGuire in 1994 and became an Associate in that firm in 1997 before the Principal, C.J.McGuire was appointed to the District Court bench in Rotorua. That firm then amalgamated with D.E Wackrow in 1997 becoming Wackrow & Co, and he became a partner in that firm in 2002 which is currently known as Wackrow Williams & Davies Limited. The Law firm has been a finalist in the NZ Law Awards three times and has won two NZ Māori language awards. He has enjoyed a very general law practice as a result of the firms he has been involved with, doing some Criminal work in the District and High Court, and then developing a practice involving Residential and Commercial Property, Relationship Property, Trusts, Employment, Commercial, Civil Litigation in the District Court, High Court and Court of Appeal. However, a considerable component of his legal career has been spent focussing on Māori Legal issues both in the Māori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal and in settlement negotiations where he has represented many hapū and iwi and governance bodies. At the same time he has managed to continue to enjoy some sporting success in rugby, as well as being selected to play for the NZ Touch Barbarians Masters team winning the Oceania Championship in Fiji in 2013 and also playing rugby for Ponsonby in the World Masters tournament in 2017 where the team won a Gold medal.

Judge Williams is a former Co-Tumuaki of Te Hunga Roia Maori ō Aotearoa (2006-2008), he has presented seminars for the Auckland District Law Society, Auckland College of Law, NZ Bar Association and at two World Indigenous Law Conferences. He is also the current Commissioner of Te Taha Māori ō Te Haahi Weteriana ō Aotearoa.

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