Chief Justice Interim Guidance – Wearing Taonga in all Courts

From  25 May 2021, lawyers, judges, court officials and stakeholders will be able to wear culturally significant decorative taonga instead of neckties in court. The Chief Justice of New Zealand, the Rt Hon. Dame Helen Winkelmann, has issued a guidance document which explains that taonga, worn appropriately, is considered to be business attire in in all courts in Aotearoa. 

The guidance notes that Article II of Te Tiriti o Waitangi provides protection of Māori tino rangatiratanga over all taonga. While it is not intended that the guidance could provide a comprehensive definition of taonga, it explains that for its purposes that “taonga” is intended to refer to a “decorative item of special Māori cultural significance that is worn around a person’s neck.” The guidance makes clear that the overriding requirement that conduct and attire demonstrate respect for the Court and those participating in its proceedings. As with neckties, taonga are to be worn with a shirt that has the top button done up.

NZBA President Paul Radich QC welcomed the development.  He described it as being entirely appropriate for the Courts of New Zealand/te Kōti o Aotearoa. “It is an important step in aligning our courts with contemporary views on business attire in our wonderfully diverse communities,” Mr Radich says.  “Earlier this year the judiciary created a Committee called Tomo Mai, which is considering how to make our courts more inclusive to all. The Bar looks forward to the greater recognition of culturally significant concerns as the work of Tomo Mai progresses.” 

Mr Radich noted that, as part of the work of Tomo Mai, the current Court Etiquette Guidelines are being reviewed to ensure that they are fit for purpose in the modern legal system. “Since they were drafted, well over a decade ago now, technology has changed the way we operate, particularly in Court. It is a good time to make provision for those changes alongside measures to make the courts more accessible to all and to better recognise the role of te Tiriti in our judicial system.”

Read the guidance here


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