"I'm not a judge who lives in the PC world."
Our People's so glad you said that Judge Louis Bidois, if you hadn't we most certainly would have.
This man, who marked 16 years on the bench a couple of weeks back, is about as far from the stereotypical image of a judge as it's possible to get.
While he retains the authority his role demands he's the antithesis of authoritarian. This is a judge whose focus is on those in the dock drawing them into what, for many, is the remote judicial process. He uses language they identify with, it's not unknown for him to call them "bro".
"As a Māori I have that huge advantage most Pākeha judges don't, that of being able to speak to them [offenders] in a way they understand to engage, some lawyers who don't like you doing that.
"If they tell me P's their drug of choice, I tell them it doesn't make you run faster, work harder, improve the quality of your life, just destroys it."
It's one of this judge's major frustrations that by far the majority of those he deals with share his ethnic roots.
"Māori who've lost touch with their culture, their sense of identity, are disconnected from their marae, tragically it's now intergenerational."
It's for this reason he's such a passionate advocate for Rangatahi Courts – the marae-based judicial system for 14-17-year-olds.
Before we get to such an integral part of what defines this non-conformist judge we put him in front of a metaphorical mirror and invite his views on the reflection he sees.
His interpretation: "A very ordinary Māori from Ngongotahā with the good fortune to have been brought up with a whakapapa (genealogy) rooted in two marae. My dad was from Awahou, my mum Waiteti, I'm proud to be part of both with their good people who have that sense of identity and relationship those I've been talking about don't. My people have always been close to me, guided me."
On the subject of whānau and his own successful life is he a by-product of a bright academic bunch?
"No way, my father was one of 11, my mother one 13 - all good, hardworking people, I'm the first to go to university."
This he did straight from Western Heights High School, his career choice not motivated by altruism. "To be honest I played around in the education system, I'm useless with my hands but could argue, law seemed to fit that."
There was no rabid student high life for the first year student. He and partner Gayleen Kelly (long since his wife) lived in a caravan. Their oldest son was born in his dad's second study year.
"We had no money, lived at a motor camp, cleaned toilets, picked up rubbish, pushed the pram everywhere, but what we did have was a lot of whānau support."
Gayleen's also from Ngongotahā. "We met as kids, she lived down the road, I didn't look very far."
With his LLB in his back pocket Rotorua lawyer Tony Wihapi conscripted him for his practice's criminal defence work.
"My godfather, Bishop Manu Bennett, said 'boy, you need to be helping our people, do treaty, fisheries work'. I invited him to the courthouse to see I was helping our people but not in a glamorous way mainstream Māori identified with, Manu didn't make any further comment."
He and the late John Chadwick joined legal forces.
"Through his high profile with trust work I got exposed to clients with relatives who'd got into trouble. It was at the time a number of gangs were emerging, I did a lot of work with them.
"Apart from one or two seriously bad guys what gets me about the gangs is half of them are whānau to the other side, that really makes you wonder what's going wrong with society when they put their gang loyalty before their whānau, their culture."
The memory of one particular trial's stuck. With fellow Chadwick Law practitioner Denise Clark, now also a judge, they defended a man who killed his father.
"It was a genuine case of self-defence, he was found not guilty of murder or manslaughter, his mother lost a husband, she stood to lose her son for many years but stuck by him, when they were united it was really memorable."
Initial approaches suggesting he move on to the bench were rebuffed.
"It never crossed my mind, I thought judges a breed apart, I was asked to think again and realised this was an opportunity to bring a different dimension to the bench. I perceived I looked through different eyes, a different heart, would have the discretion to give someone a chance, discretion wasn't used a lot and I realised as a judge I could do that."
His first judge years were New Plymouth-based.
"They're great people down there, very patriotic, I had six very rewarding years before transferring to Tauranga, I only came back because of the distance from home, uncles and aunties were dying, attending the duration of a tangi was difficult."
He regularly sits in the home town court where his working days began.
Back on the subject of his predominantly Māori "clientele".
"I went to Morrinsville one day, when my wife asked if I'd had a good day I said it was great, I haven't seen many Pākeha for a long time."
Rangatahi court is where he's confident the imbalance can be redressed.
"I find it uplifting to have the opportunity to develop the potential of these young people, I'll never forget a kaumatua telling a youngster he knew his koro [grandfather] in the Māori Battalion. This kid had never heard of it, you could see the pride well up in him, for the first time in his life he had self-esteem, someone positive to look up to."
The acknowledged rangatira (chief) of the courts he presides over, outside them Louis Bidois reverts to his roots.
"At Awahou I am Louis boy, I'm not the chief of our family, I am a ringa wera [helper] my role will always be in the kitchen, that's what we were taught to do, have responsibility for manuhiri (guests), it's what keeps me grounded."
Born: Rotorua, 1960
Education: Ngongotaha Primary, Kaitao Intermediate, Western Heights High School, Auckland University
Family: Wife Gayleen, two sons, daughter, one mokopuna (grandson)
Iwi affiliations: Ngati Rangiwewehi and Ngararanui
Interests: Whanau. "Watching my moko play in the Boys' High 1st XV and the U16s league team." The Warriors. "Soul destroying at times." "Drinking to keep healthy."
Organisations involved with: Parole Board "That can be soul destroying too seeing people going through the prison system, coming out worse." Chairman Pekehaua Puna Reserve Trust. He chose to be photographed for this profile by the courthouse Pekehaua taniwha mural, "It represents my area." Project manager newly-opened Awahou marae whare kai (dining room).
On the law: "It's definitely Pakeha-oriented, we're a punitive country rather than focusing on rebuilding lives. One of the most rewarding parts of my job's taking judges on to marae for four nights, seeing how their lives change, engaging kanohi ki te kanohi [face to face] with tribes."
On his life: "Very satisfying, there's still a long way to go."
Personal philosophy: "What we do today we don't have to do tomorrow."