Māori Land Court ‘brother judge’ remembered

by Sol Dolor22 Nov 2017
The legal profession is mourning the death of Māori Land Court Judge David Ambler, who died earlier this month in Whangārei. He was 50.

Chief Māori Land Court Judge and Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal Wilson Isaac said that Ambler was respected by everyone he worked with in the court and the Waitangi Tribunal, of which he was a presiding officer. Isaac, the Māori Land Court judges and staff, and Waitangi Tribunal members and staff all paid their respects during the judge’s tangihanga. 

“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,” Isaac said.

The judge was fluent in te reo Māori. He brought to his work his knowledge, commitment, and passion for the law, tikanga Māori, and Iwi Māori, Isaac said.

He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1990. He then commenced with Kensington Swan in Auckland, before moving to Rotorua in 1992 and joining East Brewster, where he joined the partnership in 1997.

In private practice, he advised and represented clients in Māori land and Māori trust boards and incorporations matters. He also acted for claimants before the Waitangi Tribunal in Hauraki, Te Urewera, Wairarapa ki Tararua, and the Central North Island.

He became a judge of the Māori Land Court in 2006, becoming one of the two resident judges for the Taitokerau District. He also headed the Te Rohe Pōtae Inquiry that same year.

Nanaia Mahuta, Māori Development minister, said that the judge was a soft-spoken, intelligent man 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,” Mahuta said. “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.”

Judge David Ambler

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