17 Jul 2012

Supreme Court hearing body dispute

10:38 pm on 17 July 2012

A Supreme Court case involving a clash between traditional Maori protocol and the common law has been described as an opportunity to identify ways in which those two concepts can be brought together.

The case relates to whether whanau who removed a body from a Christchurch marae for burial in a Tuhoe burial ground acted lawfully.

James Takamore lived in Christchurch with his wife and two children.

His wife intended burying him there, but shortly after he died in August 2007, members of his whanau took his body back to Bay of Plenty for burial according to their tribal tikanga.

The whanau's lawyer told the Supreme Court on Tuesday this was the first case of this kind to come before the court and the fact there were not large numbers of such disputes indicated generally the tikanga worked.

He said tikanga wasn't something people could opt out of.

However, the lawyers for Mr Takamore's widow argued that as executrix of his will she had the right to bury him in Christchurch.

Chief Justice Sian Elias said any decision the court made would have huge ramifications for all cultures in New Zealand, not just for Maori.