New Zealand Law Society - Joel Tuita Mataitini Fotu, 1946 - 2014

Joel Tuita Mataitini Fotu, 1946 - 2014

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New Zealand's legal profession and Pacific communities are mourning the death of Tongan lawyer and legal counsel Joel Tuita Mataitini Fotu.

Mr Fotu was born on 22 January 1946 and died in Auckland on 5 June 2014.

Mr Fotu was a well-known and admired member of the Auckland legal profession. He was a Vice-President and long-standing Council member of the Auckland District Law Society Incorporated, as well as a member of one of the New Zealand Law Society's Auckland-based Standards Committees.

Always giving very generously of himself, Mr Fotu expected little in return. He was a very caring and supporting inspiration to his children and to others around him, and was a tireless worker for the people of his church and for the Tongan community.

In local body politics he attracted a lot of support as a voice for the Pacific communities in the Mount Roskill district. He worked at many levels to lift the profile of Pacific issues throughout the Auckland region and in the Islands.

As Special Counsel at Auckland law firm Glaister Ennor, Mr Fotu was particularly authoritative and respected on conveyancing and land transfer matters. He provided expert advice to many lawyers, drawing on his 30-year career at Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) which included seven years as a senior legal advisor.

LINZ Registrar-General of Land, Robert Muir, said Mr Fotu had a long and distinguished career spanning several decades with the Land and Deeds Division of the Department of Justice and latterly LINZ.

"As a senior legal advisor in the Auckland Registry Office he was highly regarded for his legal expertise and well-known for his ability to solve even the most complex land title issues. Always generous with his time and advice, he was sought after for his guidance and experience by his colleages and the profession alike," he said.

"Joel will be sadly missed by his friends and colleagues at LINZ. He will be remembered for his skill and dedication as a lawyer and his many years of public service in support of New Zealand's land title system."

Glaistor Ennor partner and New Zealand Law Society Auckland branch President Tim Jones said Mr Fotu would be sadly missed by all the partners and staff.

"We were honoured when he agreed to join the firm some four years ago as a special counsel. Joel brought to Glaister Ennor a huge depth of experience in land transfer practice and procedure and put that to very good use in the firm. He provided advice to our clients on a broad range of matters around land and land law issues.

"Usually these were issues of a significantly complex nature, however, Joel was well able to unravel them for our clients and find a solution to the problem with his immense experience and vast knowledge."

Mr Fotu developed a practice advising and assisting other law firms and other professionals in the property industry with difficult land transfer and land law matters.

"He was in constant demand to provide that advice and kept busy doing what he was excellent at - solving those sorts of problems," Mr Jones said.

Mr Fotu also gained accreditation as a Crown Agent and provided such services to a broad range of clients of the firm and other law firms.

Mr Jones says Mr Fotu had a very strong following from his church and the Tongan community and was much admired by his colleagues.

"He brought a number of clients to the firm from that group that he and his colleagues of the firm could assist with advice on a broad range of topics and not just in the area of land or property law.

"Joel was a friendly, soft spoken person who was much admired by all staff at the firm. He was a real gentleman and was always ready to assist in whatever way he could.

"We will all miss him and his big smiles and friendly, quiet and helpful personality around our office."

By Elliot Sim, New Zealand Law Society. 

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