August 2012 Māori Law Review

Editorial – Tom Bennion on the Māori Law Review – re-launching the waka

Tēnā koutou kātoa. Ka nui te mihi ki ngā roia ki a koutou hoki e mahi ana i te ao ture.

The first issue of the Māori Law Review was posted from my home office in Brooklyn in December 1993. At the time, the internet was in its infancy and there was no regular reporting of Māori Land and Appellate Court judgments, nor of Waitangi Tribunal reports.

The Review was intended as a regular updating service following on from then Chief Judge, now Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie's earlier work in the Tai Whati series of casenotes. But the Review had an additional and broader aim, to chart the ways in which law in Aotearoa New Zealand is distinctive because of its Māori component. This was an attempt to record the development of our bicultural legal system if you like.

That first issue attracted 50 subscribers and it has grown from there.

In the early years it was sometimes a struggle to find enough items to fill a month.

The Review has moved with the times. It was on occasion even ahead of them. I have an old newspaper item announcing that the Māori Law Review was the first legal publication in New Zealand to be put on the internet.

But as anyone who runs a regular publication will know, it can be a grinding task. Running a busy law practice and the arrival of three children has meant slippage in recent years.

I was therefore grateful for the interest shown in revitalising the Review by Craig Linkhorn and Paul Meredith and Carwyn Jones from Victoria University of Wellington. They have assembled a team of contributors and editors to spread the load. My role thankfully drops back to part time contributor and consultant editor. As you will have seen already, they have done an excellent job in updating the website and getting the Review back on track. We are working together to get the remaining back issues completed and posted.

The Review is the regular reporter of judgments of the Māori Land and Appellate Courts and  Waitangi Tribunal reports. In addition there is a range of decisions from other courts and tribunals as well as legislation all affecting Māori. The job of the Review remains as important as ever.

However, since the earlier days of the internet, there is now a big change in the availability of decisions of courts and tribunal. This allows the Review to become a valuable annotator of decisions and its expert contributors guides to their overall relevance.

The Review’s new website is a great asset. The instant access to and updating of legal and other information on the internet is changing law in profound ways, some which we have yet to comprehend. It was with interest that I noted that Supreme Court Justice William Young in his recent judgment in Paki v Attorney-General [2012] NZSC 50 used the online database of historic newspapers to reach conclusions about the intent of a 1903 Act.

I hope for the future that the Review will be looked on as a valuable recorder of changing law in a very important period of its development. I think that the revived Review is an essential online tool for practitioners in this area, but also policy makers, academics and the many organisations, Māori and Pākehā who have to grapple with the bicultural aspects of our legal system.