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Kathy Lee-Anne Ertel, 1964 - 2016

Kathy Ertel passed away in Wellington on 24 February 2016 aged 51 after a short battle with a terminal illness. Known as a strong and passionate advocate for the rights of Māori and Pacific and people with disabilities, she had an important input into many of the significant Treaty claims and cases over the last three decades.

Kathy Ertel was admitted as a barrister and solicitor on 15 July 1988. She practised with the Wellington firm of Luckie Hain where she became a partner. Her professional association with influential Māori lawyer Martin Dawson saw her move to Russell McVeagh with him to establish the firm's Māori Treaty Issues Unit, where she was a Consultant.

photo of Kathy Ertel 
Kathy Ertel. 

After Martin Dawson's death in 2002 Kathy began her own legal practice in Wellington, Kathy Ertel & Co. Her name is usually to be found in any Waitangi Tribunal report or court proceedings involving Treaty or Māori legal issues over her entire career in law. Kathy Ertel appeared with Denese Henare in the January 1997 Privy Council case Treaty Tribes Coalition v Urban Māori Authorities [1997] 1 NZLR 513. Earlier she was counsel with Dame Sian Elias and Graham Taylor before the Court of Appeal in Te Runanganui o Te Ika Whenua Inc Society v Attorney-General [1994] 2 NZLR 20. In 2008 she appeared with Helen Cull QC before the Court of Appeal in New Zealand Māori Council v Attorney-General [2008] 1 NZLR 318.

"Kathy had a passion for human rights and was at the forefront of Treaty jurisprudence in a number of significant decisions," says an Associate at her firm, Robyn Zwaan.

"She was active in pursuing Māori claims through the Waitangi Tribunal right up until her passing. Kathy had a sharp intellect and was a fearless advocate who will be greatly missed by her whanau, colleagues, clients and friends."

"Because she was such a staunch advocate her commitment to her clients, her relationships with her clients are beyond being the lawyer or the advocate," lawyer and Māori Women's Welfare League President Prue Kapua told Waatea News.

"She loved the history and she loved being part of telling that history of people who were learning sometimes about themselves but stories that were going to be carried through into the future, so it's a huge loss."

A statement from the Executive of Te Hunga Rōta Māori o Aotearoa/the Māori Law Society, says Kathy was a vigorous and passionate advocate particularly involving Māori legal matters.

"At all times she acted with her clients' interests at the forefront, determined to articulate their views to the best of their ability.

"Kathy has made numerous valuable contributions to the Māori and Treaty legal sector including acting as junior counsel in the benchmark New Zealand Māori Council Lands case with Martin Dawson, representing clients in probably every Waitangi Tribunal inquiry from 1994 to the present, and appearing in numerous High Court and Court of Appeal proceedings arguing for Māori. She has mentored many blossoming legal minds along the way and was a strong advocate for the advancement of Māori women in the legal profession."

Kathy was the partner of Janine and sister of Gary, Dale and Grant.

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Last updated on the 17th March 2016