Leadership team

Our Leadership Team consists of a team of Managers, Justice Services and Registrars from our regional network of offices who are responsible for delivering the day-to-day service across the country. The team consists of:

Grace Smit | Pae Matua/Director Waitangi Tribunal and Māori Land Court

Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rakaipaaka

Grace Smit commenced in her role as Director of the Waitangi Tribunal Unit in May 2016 and became the Joint-Director of the Māori Land Court and Waitangi Tribunal Unit in March 2020. Since 2018, Grace has also held the role of Senior Responsible Officer for the Whenua Māori Programme, a joint programme of work with Te Puni Kōkiri looking at services and support for Māori land owners.

Prior to her current role, Grace worked in management positions in the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Corrections as well as within the tertiary education sector. Grace completed a Masters in New Zealand history at Auckland University.


Don Cameron | Pae Ārahi o Te Raki - Te Taitokerau (Whangārei) and Waikato Maniapoto (Hamilton)

Don Cameron, District Manager and Registrar, Māori Land Court,

Born and bred in Whanganui, Don first began work with the Department of Māori Affairs in Whanganui in 1983, joining the Māori Land Court in 1990. He has held a range of positions across the court and brings extensive knowledge and experience to his current position Pae Ārahi o Te Raki and Registrar in Whangārei.


Graeme Vercoe QSM | Pae Ārahi o Te Rito - Waiariki (Rotorua) and Aotea (Whanganui)

Ngāi Tai ki Torere, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāi Tūhoe

Graeme Vercoe QSM, District Manager and Registrar, Māori Land Court

Graeme joined the Māori Land Court in 2005 as Regional Director in Rotorua. Before this he held a number of management positions with the Department of Corrections and Department of Justice. Graeme served with the New Zealand Army for over 20 years, until retiring in the rank of substantive Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. Graeme was awarded a Queens Service Medal for public services in 2008.


Claire Stirling-Hawkins | Pae Ārahi o Te Rawhiti - Tairāwhiti (Gisborne), Tākitimu (Hastings) and Te Waipounamu (Christchurch)

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga

Claire joined the Ministry of Justice in 2014 as a Collections Manager covering the Manawatu and Whanganui regions. Prior to joining the Ministry of Justice she held a number of leadership and management positions with Careers New Zealand, covering similar regions and including Taranaki. Claire joined the Māori Land Court in 2017 and brings extensive leadership knowledge and experience to her current position as Pae Ārahi o Te Rawhiti.

Based in Palmerston North, Claire holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Post-graduate diploma from Massey University in Palmerston North.


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