Due in no small measure to Judge Neil Maclean’s efforts and guidance as the first Chief Coroner, “New Zealand now has an established professional coronial system, which gives effect to the Coroner’s constitutional role and has enhanced the public’s confidence in its integrity and its independence”.
This tribute by the Attorney-General, Christopher Finlayson QC, was paid to Judge Maclean during his final sitting as Chief Coroner on 13 February.
“Your Honour’s ability to respond in a timely and in an appropriate way to the demands of your office was very evident in the effective deployment of the coronial system in times of great, great distress, following the Pike River mine disaster and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. In both disasters you personally oversaw an immediate and necessary response which tested the bounds of the new system.
“Following the earthquake you managed the task of diverting services to address 181 deaths with dignity and efficiency on top of your usual expected caseload elsewhere in the country. In the aftermath of both disasters you displayed skill and sensitivity in your efforts to connect with the community in person and through media to demystify and clarify your role and ensure its practical application.
“Your Honour’s full engagement with the community has been one of your most significant contributions,” Mr Finlayson said.
“You are well known for your willing engagement with the media to help give effect to your function of educating the public; a function which is unique to the Chief Coroner as a judicial officer.”
Mr Finlayson also recognised Judge Maclean’s work on the “vexed question” of reporting of suicides. “You have worked with the community and media to open up a sensible conversation on the significant social and health issue.”
Judge Maclean had “set an excellent standard as the first Chief Coroner,” Mr Finlayson said.