Aotearoa's first Supreme Court judge of Māori heritage has returned to his tūrangawaewae today to be knighted by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.
Ngāti Pūkenga welcomed home a favourite son as Justice Joe Williams brought together former All Blacks, top cops, lawyers and whanau - including his cousin, Pare Hauraki leader Koro Ngapo Pare – for the occasion.
His investiture ceremony raised the spirits in the tiny Coromandel village of Manaia.
Williams has been recognised for his prominent legal career, which included recently hearing the posthumous Peter Ellis appeal, asking lawyers to consider Māori tikanga in a very Pākehā case.
“It also recognises your mana and your humanity,” Reddy said.
The work closest to his heart, however, is his early mahi for iwi, calling his work in the Waitangi Tribunal “the work I can say I’m most proud of”.
“I was the lawyer for Hauraki claims, for the iwi of the Tai Tokerau, for Tauranga Moana, for Ngāti Kahungunu where I'd grown up, for various Mataatua people - it was the joy of my life,” he said.
Investitures on marae are rare so Sir Joe, or Sergio, as some now call him, thanked Ngāti Pūkenga.
“You have given me the ground to stand on and you've given me the mountain to look to and the river to cleanse my burdens."
He told his tribe, though, that he had set a trap – they were all staying the weekend for a tribal planning session.
“Here we are, for a day and a half, to dream visions of an iwi future.”