Judge Damian Hohepa Stone was sworn in as a Māori Land Court judge in the presence of 300 family, friends and colleagues last Friday.
His former school Hato Pāora College hosted the event.
Stone says he hopes events like this will help inspire the current students.
“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,” he said.
“And the reason I did law was that Moana Jackson spoke at my senior prize giving here at this school.
“So I was kind of hoping [that] bringing it here might influence just one of the boys to want to study law at university.”
During the swearing-in ceremony, justice Joseph Williams recalled the childhood of Judge Stone, who was a typical “grassroots” Māori boy raised in Porirua.
Williams said, “He was one of the people who gave me direction when I was a lawyer at Te Ohu Kaimoana. He finished there and moved on to the Bell Gully law firm, and then on to Kahui Legal, a Māori firm based in Wellington.
“He wanted this to be an example … that aspiring to be in judicial office, with its comfortable salary and impressive superannuation scheme, is something you can aspire to, too,” Williams said, poking fun at Stone.
“He believes in what he’s trying to do – to power and strengthen the Māori community. It’s no easy task.”
Māori Land Court chief judge Wilson Isaac congratulated Stone and welcomed him to the court.
“There are a number of people who couldn’t make your [ceremony] but, looking around, perhaps they wouldn’t have fit.”
The court is for Māori landowners to help them retain their land and know how to use and develop it.