A new chief District Court judge has been appointed, Attorney-General David Parker announced today.

Judge Heemi Taumaunu will fill the role left after the former top District Court judge, Jan‑Marie Doogue, was appointed to the High Court in July.

Judge Taumaunu, who is of Ngāti Pōrou and Ngāi Tahu descent, has developed and presided over the first Rangatahi Court in Gisborne in 2008 and encouraged fellow judges to establish marae-based youth courts.

In accepting the role, Judge Taumaunu said he envisaged holding the position for eight years.


"I intend to step aside from the chief District Court judge role after eight years. I want to make that clear from the outset, because I consider after a term of that length the court would benefit from fresh leadership," he said in a statement.

Judge Taumaunu has been District Court judge since January 2004 and has been an Auckland-based judge sitting in Rangatahi courts in Auckland and Waitakere.

In 2016 he was awarded the international Veillard-Cybukski Award recognising innovative work with children and families in difficulty.

Judge Taumaunu was also appointed a judge of the Court Martial in 2012 and in 2018 was appointed Deputy Judge Advocate-General and Deputy Chief Judge of the Court Martial.

A key focus of the chief judge, Parker, will be the ongoing evaluation, and where appropriate wider implementation, of specialist court pilots.

During the tenure access to civil justice will also be addressed, Parker said.

"The civil jurisdiction of the District Court has decreased to, largely, default and summary judgements. The reasons are complex but changes to District Court rules and processes are expected to be needed to reinvigorate this important function to enable more New Zealanders to cost-effectively resolve their disputes," Parker said.

Chief Judge Taumaunu will take up his position on Friday.