One-hundred of New Zealand's most esteemed judicial officials were formally welcomed on to a Tauranga marae in a historic event not seen before.
Judges from the nation's Supreme Court, High Court and Court of Appeal were honored manuhiri at Te Whetū-o-te-Rangi Marae on Thursday as part of this year's Senior Court Judges' Conference.
At midday, a traditional wero (challenge) was held as the contingent of judges, including Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann, walked on to the Welcome Bay marae grounds as part of the pōwhiri.
Organiser Kipouaka Pukekura said such a gathering on a marae had not happened in New Zealand's history before.
"It's significant for Tauranga Moana. It's significant for the judiciary. It's the three top layers of the top judges in the country and it's the first time they've congregated all together like this."
Pukekura said the aim of hosting the conference was to share Māori tikanga with the judges to offer a better understanding of their culture and background.
"When they can, at the stroke of a pen, sentence our people they need to see where our people come from," she said.
Justice Sir Joe Williams, of Ngati Pūkenga and Te Arawa descent, was among tangata whenua welcoming his colleagues and peers on to the marae.
Others welcoming the judges included local iwi leaders Matire Duncan and Hauata Palmer.
Williams, who had his investiture ceremony in Manaia last weekend, was instrumental in helping bring the conference to the marae, Pukekura said.
Speakers at the conference included Williams, QSM, Tauranga Moana chairwoman Ngareta Timutimu and Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua chairman Tamati Kruger, who was key in negotiating the return of the Te Uruwera to Tuhoe which has fostered a positive relationship between the Crown and iwi, she said.
Pukekura said the manuhiri were the "rock stars" of New Zealand's judicial system and it was a privilege to host them.
"This is tikanga like we've never had before. This here today is informing them of how we practice tikanga," Pukekura said.
Williams was the first Māori to be appointed to preside over a Supreme Court.
He was knighted in 2019 for services to the judiciary and has waited since to have his investiture ceremony held in the tiny Coromandel Peninsula village of Manaia, home to Ngati Pūkenga o Manaia.
Such ceremonies are rarely held outside of Auckland or Wellington.