Hato Paora celebrates Judge Damian Hohepa Stone

By Tema Hemi
  • North Island: West Coast

Judge Damian Hohepa Stone was sworn in as a Māori Land Court judge today and his former school Hato Paora College proudly hosted the event.

Judge Stone is the Hato Paora College's first judge and he hopes to inspire current students to pursue a career in the judicial system.

His career thus far has seen him work at some of New Zealand's biggest corporations and law firms. 

He is the 114th judge to be appointed to the Māori Land Court since its inception in 1865 and is now another celebrated alumni of Hato Paora, alongsideTā Te Atawhai Taiaroa, Bishop Mariu, Professor Robert Jankhe and Te Anatipa Morvin Simon.

He says he hopes events like this will help inspire the current students. Judge Terena Wara was also inducted as a judge of the Māori Land Court. 

Judge Stone says, "I am now part of a judicial group who have to treat people fairly, administer justice fairly and in particular for our court assist our people to administer their land. And the reason I did law was because Moana Jackson spoke at my senior prize giving here at this school. So I was kind of hoping bringing it here it might influence just one of the boys to want to study law at university. 

Stone also comments on some of the difficulties he will face in his role, "So actually running a court will be a completely new thing for me so that a little bit daunting I'm gonna have to learn how to do that pretty quickly."

Judge Joseph Williams says, "He was one of the people who gave me direction when I was a lawyer at Te Ohu Kaimoana. He finished there and moved onto Bell Gully law firm, and then onward to Kahui Legal a Māori firm based in Wellington.  Its a hard role as a judge to judge people. To see if they are genuine or not or what they are saying is the truth. "

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta says he has a humble heart and within that, he has a developed his skill base.

"He has worked and exhausted his time working on judicial issues and the law. He has also had a huge focus on issues around Māori land issues," says Mahuta.