The Whangarei Māori Land Court, located in the Rathbone Business Centre, is one of nine regional courtrooms of its kind throughout Aotearoa.
Part of the Ministry of Justice, it provides a judicial forum for decisions relating to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 – the Act which recognises the significance of Māori land as a taonga tuku iho of special significance to the Māori people.
While the Court is primarily a place where matters relating to current and future Māori land use are addressed, it also plays a vital role in its community by providing tangata whenua with access to ancestry records.
Following a decision to relocate the Whangarei Court to new premises, The Ministry of Justice selected GHD Design creativespaces to deliver the design of the new facility. As project architect for the new Whangarei Māori Land Court, our team drew on its previous experience in courthouse design.
In 2019, GHD Design creativespaces was appointed to the role of project architect, working alongside RDT Pacific (project manager and quantity surveyor to the project) and main contractor, Legacy Construction. The project’s scope included the Court’s ground floor lobby, record storage area and research facilities, as well as the courtrooms located on the first floor.
In providing the brief, Ministry of Justice communicated a strong desire that the design team create a place which would feel welcoming, calm, and respectful of the cultural importance of the Court. Court staff had already been given an opportunity to provide input and there was also a clear directive from them that Te Aranga Principles should be incorporated within the design.
The resulting architectural response was centred on the principles of Mahi Toi, Ahi Kā, Tohu and Whakapapa. Recognition of the Mana of the Court was also a defining feature of the design
To bring these concepts to life, careful consideration was given to the use of materials and finishes. The team worked hard to create a space that felt contemporary but was also clearly identifiable as a place where Māori culture was celebrated.
To ensure that the final product would meet the brief, GHD Design creativespaces engaged with a local noted sculptor, carver, and design educator Carin Wilson as a consultant for the project. Carin provided advice on incorporation of Te Aranga Principles throughout the design phase and created many of the custom-made elements that brought the concept to life.
Another example was the visual representation of the Te Aranga principle of Tohu through a feature wall designed around the three local Maunga that form a vital part of the community’s history and identity.
“It makes you feel proud. It is exciting moving from where we were previously located to an environment that is more fitting for our customers. It was nice to work with a project team that is genuinely interested and connected with the project. We were fortunate to have exactly that.” - Don Cameron, Manager of Justice Services, Māori Land Court.