Tiana Epati is the new New Zealand Law Society Gisborne branch President after she was elected unopposed at the branch’s annual meeting on 13 March 2014. She succeeds Alistair Clark, who served as branch President for three years.
A criminal defence lawyer, Ms Epati graduated from Auckland University in 2000 with a BA in philosophy and history and an LLB.
She began her working life as a lawyer with Meredith Connell, where she was a Crown prosecutor for four years.
While working there she met Matanuku Mahuika who was living in Wellington. Now her husband, Mr Mahuika is also a lawyer and is a partner of Wellington firm Kahui Legal. So in 2004 she moved to the capital, working as a Crown prosecutor at Luke Cunningham Clere.
She moved from criminal work to working in the public law team at Izard Weston on a one-year fixed-term contract. However she found she missed the criminal law work and returned to Luke Cunningham and Clere.
After having her first child, she decided she wanted to take a step back from conducting serious criminal trials with a young child, so in 2008 she moved to Crown Law, working in the criminal law team appearing as lead counsel on appeals to the Court of Appeal.
When she had her second baby in August 2011, she and her husband decided to move to Gisborne, because that is where Mr Mahuika is from, arriving there in October 2012.
She has been with Rishworth Wall & Mathieson, working mainly as a criminal defence lawyer, since then.
As well as her criminal specialty, Ms Epati is interested in human rights law, and recently completed a post-graduate intensive paper in human rights litigation at Auckland University.
Since moving to Gisborne, Ms Epati has become a keen surfer under the guidance of a local Gisborne surfing coach. She also does lots of running and participates in yoga and pilates.
With a six-year-old son, Umuariki, a 2½-year-old daughter, Kura, and her husband, family is a big part of what she does outside of work.
Her son is autistic and that has given Ms Epati a particular interest in the area of autism and special needs. In fact that has been one of the things which has triggered her interest in human rights and the law.