Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall has welcomed the appointments of eight relief coroners who will be based across the country from Dunedin to Whangarei. The positions, on approval from the Attorney-General, were funded as part of Budget 2019. As part of this, the government pledged $7.5 million to fund eight part-time coroners, and the support staff needed to fulfil the role.
“With the warrants officially signed, I want to congratulate and welcome our new coroners who will start in their roles over the coming weeks. I look forward to swearing them into the Coroners Court and inducting them into our team,” Judge Marshall says.
The focus of the relief coroners will be to provide support as duty coroners and help to reduce the backlog of cases. The average time it took to close a coronial case in 2018/19 was 344 days.
Currently, along with managing their individual caseloads, full-time coroners share the role of Duty Coroner – a rotating responsibility that involves being on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, dealing with sudden deaths around the country.
“An inquiry is not a quick process, but in giving our full-time coroners more time to conclude the active cases before them, it’s hoped this will help give closure to grieving families and whanau,” Judge Marshall says.
Who are the eight relief coroners?
Allie Cunninghame – Dunedin
Allie Cunninghame is an expert on New Zealand’s health and safety law and has worked with the Legal Issues Centre as Professional Practice Fellow for the past ten years. She has a Bachelors in Laws and Arts from Otago University. She has been an associate with Anderson Lloyd in Dunedin since 2008.
Mark Wilton – Wellington
Having worked as a criminal and civil litigator, Mark Wilton moved to the Police Prosecution Service in late 2003 as the Taranaki rural prosecutor based in Hawera. Since then, he has been National Legal Counsel for the Police Prosecution Service. He holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Canterbury.
Dr Heather McKenzie – Auckland
Heather McKenzie has been a Crown Prosecutor in Christchurch for ten years and is an associate at Raymond Donnelly & Co. She holds a doctorate in Asian Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and French and a Bachelor of Laws - all from the University of Canterbury. She has also written texts on Health and Safety Law and Proceeds of Crime. Dr McKenzie will relocate to Auckland for the appointment.
Mary-Anne Borrowdale – Wellington
Mary-Anne Borrowdale has been General Counsel (Competition and Consumer) for the Commerce Commission since 2010. Prior to this, she worked in the Commission’s enforcement and litigation areas and has two decades’ experience in commercial and criminal litigation. She has a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Canterbury.
Donna Llewell – Rotorua
Donna LLewell has been a senior solicitor at Te Papa Atawhai, Department of Conservation. She has a has a Master and Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts in Maori and a Diploma in French studies from the Rennes 2 University. She has previously also been in-house Legal Counsel for the Bay of Plenty Regional Counsel since 2016, a Crown Counsel with the Crown Law Office, Legal Advisor to the Autonomous Bougainville Authority and Senior Associate with Chen Palmer. She is a competent speaker of Te Reo Māori and her iwi is Ngā Puhi.
Heidi Wrigley – Rotorua
Heidi Wrigley started her career as a High Court Judges’ Clerk and holds Bachelor of Laws and Science as well as a Master of Laws from the University of Auckland. From 2004 to 2016 she was a Senior Crown Prosecutor in Tauranga before contracting to do prosecution work for the Crown Solicitors in Tauranga and Rotorua. She was also Associate Crown Counsel at Crown Law in 2009.
Alison Mills – Whangarei
Alison Mills is a barrister currently working with Simon Mount QC at Bankside Chambers Limited. She has a Bachelor of Laws from Victoria University and a Master of Laws from Auckland University. She has also been a Senior Crown Counsel at the Crown Law Office in Rarotonga and an in-house Senior Legal Advisor to the Medical Council of NZ. She is an intermediate speaker of Te Reo Māori.
Matthew Bates – Hamilton
Matthew Bates has been acting as a relief coroner since September 2019, having been appointed previously in the Hamilton region to cover for extended leave. Before this, Mr Bates was a member of the Public Defence Service in Tauranga. He practiced as a barrister sole from 2002 to 2016 where he was a District Inspector for Mental Health and a District Inspector for Intellectual Disability.