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After dedicating his career to Māori land law and family law, a University of Otago alumnus will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws next week.

Judge Isaac image
Judge Isaac.

Judge Wilson Isaac (Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu) will have the degree conferred at Otago’s graduation ceremony on Saturday, 19 August. He will also give the graduation address.

Judge Isaac graduated from Otago with a Bachelor of Arts in 1974 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1977.

He spent 17 years as a solicitor and partner at Burnard Bull & Co, in Gisborne, where he developed an extensive practice in Māori land law and family law.

He has held several positions at the Māori Land Court; he was appointed a judge in 1994, Deputy Chief Judge in 1999, and Chief Judge in 2009.

At the same time as his promotion to Chief Judge, he was also made Chair of the Waitangi Tribunal.

He retired from both roles earlier this year.

During his time at the Tribunal Judge Isaac led several hearings: Mohaka ki Ahuriri Inquiry, the Northern South Island Inquiry and National Park District Inquiry, the Freshwater and Geothermal Resources Inquiry and the Napier Hospital and Health Services Report Inquiries.

He is currently the Presiding Officer for the Māori Military Veterans Inquiry and the Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry into Remaining Historical Claims.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson says Judge Isaac’s dedication to law is remarkable, evident by his nearly 30 years as a judge of the Māori Land Court.

“He has made a lasting impression throughout his career and exemplifies many of the qualities associated with Otago alumni.”

Judge Isaac is honoured and humbled to receive one of the University’s most prestigious qualifications.

“Otago gave me the foundation to my career and set the groundwork for a good work ethic. It was a great place to study.”

Faculty of Law Dean Professor Shelley Griffiths is pleased to recognise Judge Isaac’s distinguished career with this year’s third honorary degree, given to alumni to mark the 150th anniversary of law at Otago.

“First as a practitioner and then as a judge, he has made an important contribution to the law in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Waitangi Tribunal held hearings on many claims and published very significant reports during the 14 years he was its Chair.”

For more information please contact:

Jessica Wilson
Adviser Media Engagement
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 279 5016

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