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Letter: Reconsider land law sub-committee

Tuesday 27 February 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


Letter: Reconsider land law sub-committee

Dear Editor, I read with interest the appointment of the special sub-committee regarding two private member’s bills currently before the house. (Cook Islands News, Friday 23 February).

This is essentially intended to be an expert panel on land law in the Cook Islands.  

There are three indigenous Maori members of this panel and one female. Of all the lawyers named, and the non lawyer whose appointment is frankly a mystery given that she holds no degree in law and is not empowered to practice in the land court except as a self-represented litigant, none can be said to exclusively specialise in Cook Islands land law. That category must surely belong to registered land agents who practice only in the area of land law and are a statutorily created class of professionals, subject to the fulfilment of certain requirements prior to registration including knowledge of customary law. That latter requirement is not a requirement of a lawyer under the existing Law Practitioners Act.  

We can see that women are under-represented on this panel even though Maori women have a long history of connection to Maori land. But when Maori women do have a representative who specialises in an area where expertise is valuable, and that representative has fearlessly challenged the status quo for the benefit of her people; has been lauded by the Court of Appeal for her high standard of submissions; and has a very high success rate in winning her cases at an affordable fee, why is she passed over? 

Tere Carr should be on that panel. Land agents have played and continue to play an important role in the Cook Islands land court. Tere is quite simply an excellent role model for all future Maori female practitioners in law, especially those who know from hard lived and frequently inter-generational experience, that the legal status quo in practice, hasn’t been in their interests as Maori people, particularly as commercialism has come into play. 

Landowners deserve to have a voice on that sub-committee panel who is the whole package: experienced in and out of court, qualified to practice, exclusive specialist expertise in the subject matter, and indigenous. We don’t have that voice even though we have that candidate in Tere.

Women need to see that if they are deserving candidates for a role, they are recognised and appropriately utilised. We don’t see that when a less qualified and experienced individual has been selected to fulfil the only female position on an otherwise all male panel. 

Reconsider that panel and appoint Tere Carr. We deserve her. 

Yours truly,

A landowner

(Name and address supplied)