Peter Debney, Janet King, and Neil Cameron have volunteered as Justices of Peace for 13 years each. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

For shy university students putting in their applications, to newly married couples and families looking to immigrate, Justices of the Peace [JPs] are there for it all.

Masterton residents Peter Debney, Janet King, and Neil Cameron were all sworn in around the same time 13 years ago.

In that time, they’ve dedicated countless hours and signed thousands of important documents for people, carrying out important roles in the administration of documentation and justice in New Zealand as volunteers.

This includes signing and verifying documents and witnessing oaths being sworn among other duties.

King, who is also the regional JP president, said that they were accustomed to dealing with a large range of documents.

“It’s a very valuable service that JPs do,” she said.

“It avoids people having to go to a lawyer to have documents signed.”

It’s a long road to becoming a JP, with the accreditation process taking more than a year and involving help from the electorate MP, backgrounds checks, interviews, and finally, a ministerial appointment to
the role.

There are 84 JPs in Wairarapa, ranging in age from about 40 to 80, each with a different background.

King said the role meant you worked closely with your community, with people wanting a JP able to call on them at home or their place of work.

“It’s breaking down all social barriers. We meet people from all walks of life.”

She recalled one woman visiting her shop in Lansdowne to thank King for signing the papers for her final IVF treatment – she also introduced King to her new son.

Debney also recalled memorable people he’d met, including one couple whom he saw through their immigration process, marriage, and purchasing their first home.

“You have a brief glimpse into people’s lives. People are very generous, and you feel you are making a difference.

“You may be their one and only contact with the legal system.”

He said he became a JP through his involvement with the court, recognising there was a need within the community.

“This was my way of contributing to the community.”

Cameron agreed it was all about helping people.

“Everyone has times in their life when they need papers signed. There’s always a new form.”

In recent years, people have been able to access JP services at a range of ‘service desks’ around the region.

Cameron volunteers at the Masterton District Library every Saturday from 10am to noon and said he signs from 50-70 documents each month – some ranging in size from two pages to others which are more than 40 pages long.

From July 7, he’ll also be available on Tuesdays from 11am to 1pm at the library.

Debney can be found at the Masterton District Court every Friday from 11am to 1pm.

JP service desks are also run from the Masterton Citizens Advice Bureau on Mondays and Wednesdays 9am to noon, in the Carterton Library on Fridays noon to 2pm, and in Eketahuna as requested.

  • Other times or meeting places can also be arranged by going to, justiceofthepeace.org.nz
  • National Volunteer Week, celebrating the work of volunteers and charities, began on Sunday and continues through to Saturday. Every day this week, the Times-Age will highlight a person [or organisation] who gives their time for the betterment of the Wairarapa community.