New Zealand Law Society - Te Tiriti obligation on regulator, not lawyers

Te Tiriti obligation on regulator, not lawyers

The recommendation that the regulator be subject to an obligation to give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti has been accepted in principle by a majority of Law Society Council members. When the Independent Review Report was released in March, some commentary suggested that the obligations would apply to individual practitioners. Panel Chair Ron Paterson indicated that was not the position, “The Panel’s recommendation was that it apply to the regulator,” he said.

Consultation on this recommendation by the Law Society and public engagement undertaken by the Panel both indicated mixed views about the inclusion of Te Tiriti in the regulatory framework. This was primarily due to a lack of information about what it would mean for the regulator, any membership body, and for the regulated profession.

For instance, the regulator would need to consider how Te Ao Māori perspectives and tikanga could be incorporated into its regulatory functions, how expertise in these processes would be obtained, and how these processes would be applied in practice. These, and other questions, would be considered as part of the structure and processes established by the regulator.

Law Society Chief Executive Katie Rusbatch says “A number of regulatory processes could be amended to better recognise Te Ao Māori perspectives and tikanga, such as mediation and dispute resolution, education tools for the profession and consumers, and the process for applying for a certificate of character.” 

“Steps are already being taken by the Law Society to be more inclusive in its regulatory processes and functions.” 

Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa’s Tumuaki Tane, Baden Vertongen (Ngāti Raukawa), observed in a recent LawTalk article that the discussion about what the change should look like will be an important opportunity for those members of the profession who haven’t been able to see or hear themselves reflected in the representation and regulation of the profession in the past to have their say.  

“The New Zealand Law Society, and its successor(s), must provide a whare that is inclusive and accountable to represent and regulate all of the profession. It therefore needs to be a body (or bodies) where all parts of the profession can see themselves reflected and see some legitimacy for its role.