Prue Harawira-Smith became the first Justice of the Peace [JP] to be sworn in on a marae in Wairarapa in a historic occasion yesterday.
The ceremony was held on Hau Ariki marae, where Harawira-Smith is a committee member, and makes her the only current Māori JP in Wairarapa.
A pōwhiri to welcome Harawira-Smith onto the marae alongside her whānau, friends, and colleagues was held before she was sworn in by Judge Barbara Morris.
She said that when she was approached to join the Wairarapa JP Association, she told them how important her culture is to her, leading to the event being held on her local marae.
Harawira-Smith said she is honoured to join the association and able to serve the community she lives and works in, as well as the Māori community.
“I think it’s good for Aotearoa in general that we’ve been included in positions like this,” she said.
Meanwhile, Wairarapa JP Association president Colleen Douglas is thrilled to have more diversity within the JP association.
“When I came in as president, I realised that our JPs did not represent our community,” she said.
She said one of the primary goals of the association is to take a bicultural approach and noted that they had already introduced whakataukī, karakia, and waiata at meetings.
“I would like to see the JPs mirror the demographics of Wairarapa,” she said.
Harawira-Smith soon won’t be the association’s only Māori JP, with five others set to be sworn in over the coming months, with the offer for their ceremonies to be held on marae as well, Douglas said.
“We’re really looking forward to having Prue as part of our team, and we’ll welcome the other five when they’re sworn in,” she said.
Douglas thanked the Masterton District Court for being accommodating and travelling to Martinborough.
She said having the support of the courts, judge, tangata whenua, and local iwi had helped make this happen, and she looks forward to the JPs in Wairarapa reflecting the community they serve.