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Tere Akatangi Mataio, 1934 - 2005

By Geoff Adlam

Tere Akatangi Mataoi was the first Cook Islander to be admitted to the New Zealand bar. On his return to Rarotonga he enjoyed a successful career as legal officer for the Cook Islands Justice Department.

Mr Mataio was born in Rarotonga on 26 January 1934. When he was 13 he benefited from a scholarship scheme introduced by the New Zealand government. This enabled him to attend New Plymouth Boys’ High School. He became a prefect at the school and was also a member of the rugby First XV.

On leaving school he began studying law at Victoria University of Wellington while working for the Department of Justice, the Department of Māori Affairs and the Department of Island Territories. After completing his solicitor’s qualifications, he became the first Cook Islander to be admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, in 1959.

Mr Mataio completed the final subjects for his LLB in 1960 and was capped in May that year. He was also admitted as a barrister of the Supreme Court.

He returned to Rarotonga where he became legal officer to the Cook Islands Justice Department, only one of two lawyers employed in the government, the other being the Advocate-General. He developed expertise in land tenure law, and authored the chapter “Cook Islands: a perspective on land and productivity” in the University of South Pacific publication Land Tenure and Rural Productivity in the Pacific Islands (Ben Acquaye & Ron Crocombe (eds), 1984).

Tere Mataio was the third lawyer to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor in the Cook Islands, in 1976 pursuant to Schedule 4 of the Law Practitioners (Admission) Regulations 1994, but he was the first Cook Islander to be so admitted.

He died in Rarotonga on 11 November 2005 aged 71.

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Last updated on the 2nd September 2019