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2023 Asia Pacific Judicial Colloquium

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 28 March 2023
The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, GNZM, QSO

Rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Nau mai haere mai ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Kia ora tātou katoa.

It’s my great pleasure to welcome you all to Government House Wellington, as you gather together for the 2023 Asia Pacific Colloquium. I especially wish to welcome those of you who have travelled some distance to be here – from Australia, Canada, Hong King, and Singapore. Tēnā koutou katoa.

Gatherings such as this are incredibly important – giving us the opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas, and to learn from each other’s approaches to shared challenges and experiences.

The countries and judiciaries represented here are grappling with the same existential threats: the pandemic, overseas conflict, and climate change; the dissemination of information and disinformation; and the undermining of public trust in public institutions.

These are the kinds of challenges we must work together as a global community to address, and the theme for this year’s colloquium – ‘”Let justice be done [as] the heavens fall”: Judging in times of disruption’ – could not be more pertinent.

As the New Zealand Law Commission noted in its milestone report, Delivering Justice for All: ‘The function of all judges – despite variations in hierarchy or process – is fundamentally the same: to deliver justice by determining the factual or legal issues relating to particular cases in front of them. Their decisions have influence beyond the individuals and groups who come before them: they underpin the way the economy and society functions and citizens interact. In this way, courts make a vital contribution to a stable and civil society’.

Judges are responsible, not only for upholding the rule of law, but for protecting our societies from the abuse of power. Everyone – myself included as the representative of our Head of State, and our Members of Parliament – is subject to the law through judgements passed down in the courts.

I acknowledge the great and often lonely responsibility you each bear – but I also know that you view your roles in your respective judiciaries, not as a burden, but as a privilege. Our societies are dependent on people of courage and integrity, such as yourselves, committing themselves to the development of the law. I hope this colloquium offers a further opportunity for you to collaborate in that important pursuit.

As many of you may know, New Zealand’s legal and parliamentary system is underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi – signed between the first Governor of New Zealand, Edward Hobson, and iwi chiefs in 1840.

Each year, on the 6th of February, Aotearoa New Zealand gathers to commemorate the signing of the Treaty. Just a few months ago, Dame Helen and I – along with other members of the New Zealand judiciary – attended a dawn service in the Bay of Islands as part of these commemorations. I hope Dame Helen will forgive me, but I wish to share with you all a passage from the beautiful prayer she delivered during that service:

Tui, tui, tuia
Tuia i runga, tuia i raro, tuia i waho, tuia i roto
Tuia ki te muka tangata
I takea mai i a Rangi e tu nei, i a Papa e takoto nei
Paiheretia ki te whakapono, te tūmanako, me te aroha
Engari ko te mea nui rawa
Ko te aroha.

Bind us, bind us, bind us
Bind us above, below, within and without
Bind us with the thread of our common humanity
The thread whose source is the sky above and the earth below
Tie us with bonds of faith, hope and love
But most especially with love.

Despite the harm that has come through its neglect and abuse, and the difficulties of interpretation it has presented, I believe the Treaty of Waitangi is a profoundly inspiring document in the way it compels us to consider and respect our differences, while at the same time, binds us together.

I think as a global community, we can similarly draw wisdom and inspiration from Te Tiriti – reminding us of the duty of care and respect we share across boundaries of culture and experience, and urging us to match virtuous ideals with courageous action.

My sincerest thanks once again to you all, for the conscientious and courageous manner in which you undertake your important duties, and consider the pressing issues of our time.

To our overseas guests, while many of you may be familiar with New Zealand, I hope you have the opportunity to experience a little more of our country while you are here, and to spend some time exploring beautiful Wellington. In the meantime, I wish you all a rewarding and enjoyable few days.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Thursday, 30 March 2023

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