David Ambler, a Judge of the Māori Land Court and Presiding Officer in the Waitangi Tribunal, died in Whangārei on 11 November 2017. He was aged 50.
Judge Ambler attended the University of Auckland and graduated with a BA majoring in Māori studies and an LLB in 1989. After being admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1990, he worked as a staff solicitor at Kensington Swan in Auckland. He moved to Rotorua in 1992 to work with East Brewster, becoming a partner in 1997.
As a lawyer, David Ambler advised and represented clients in relation to a range of Māori land issues and acted for a number of Māori trust boards and incorporations as well as representing claimants before the Waitangi Tribunal in Hauraki, Te Urewera, Wairarapa ki Tararua and the Central North Island.
Judge Ambler was appointed to the Māori Land Court in June 2006 and sworn in on 19 June at Tangatarua Marae in Rotorua. He was one of two resident Judges for the Taitokerau District. He was appointed Presiding Officer of the Te Rohe Pōtae Inquiry in 2006.
Chief Māori Land Court Judge, and Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal, Wilson Isaac, says Mr Ambler was a respected colleague of everyone he worked with in the Court and the Tribunal. “Fluent in te reo Māori, Judge Ambler brought to his work his knowledge, commitment and passion for the law, tikanga Māori and Iwi Māori,” he says.
“While we grieve for our brother Judge, Judge Ambler’s death is an intensely personal loss for his whānau and close friends. On behalf of the Māori Land Court and the Waitangi Tribunal I want to publicly extend my deep and sincere sympathies to his wife Tai, his children, moko and his wider whānau at this sad time.
“Kua pōhara tātou katoa i tō rironga e te rangatira. Haere ki a Ruakūmea, ki a Ruatōia, e kukume tonu nei, e tōtō tonu nei i te tangata ki te pō.
Ko te aunga o te moe ki a koe e hoa.”
The Minister for Māori Development, Nanaia Mahuta, has described David Ambler as a “softly spoken, intelligent man who was held in high regard by Māori and Pākehā alike”.
“Judge David Ambler was a well-respected New Zealander. Presiding over matters to do with Māori and their land is a very complex area. Judge Ambler rose to the challenge with dignity, clarity and respect.
“When presiding over Te Rohe Pōtae District inquiry for the Waitangi Tribunal, emotions ran high but I remember Judge Ambler remained considered, respectful and committed to the task at hand,” says Ms Mahuta.