Judge Craig Coxhead has dedicated his judicial career to helping hapū and whānau to find legal solutions that will have a positive impact for generations to come. For that, he has received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato.
The award is given to a small number of alumni who have achieved significant success in their career and made outstanding contributions to their communities.
Growing up in Tokoroa, Judge Coxhead (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Makino, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Maru) says he wanted to follow in his brother's footsteps to study at the University of Waikato. “Plus, Waikato stood out for me because of the strength of its Māori department,” he says.
He went on to graduate from Waikato with two bachelor degrees and a Master of Laws. He began his legal career as a solicitor at McCaw Lewis Chapman specialising in Treaty of Waitangi matters, Māori land issues and litigation.
He then returned to the University in 1997 in an academic capacity with Te Piringa – Faculty of Law and has been an honorary lecturer since 2008.
Judge Coxhead is modest about his time at Waikato. “Me mihi ka tika ki Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato - every opportunity I’ve had, in particular those at Waikato, have contributed to the position I am in today,” he says.
In 2008, he was appointed to the bench of Te Kooti Whenua Māori (the Māori Land Court) and is currently the Waiariki District Judge. Since being appointed to the bench he has carried out judicial functions for the Māori Appellate Court and has undertaken the role of a presiding officer for Te Rōpū Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Waitangi Tribunal) in the Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry.
Judge Coxhead’s judicial services are not limited to Aotearoa. In 2011 he was appointed a High Court judge in Niue, before being sworn in as the Chief Justice of Niue in 2018. He is also a Justice of the High Court of the Cook Islands and on the executive committee for the Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative as the representative for the Chief Justices of Polynesia.
He is equally committed to developing the next generation of lawyers, and over the years has maintained his links to the University of Waikato as a guest lecturer and by volunteering his time as a judge for the national Kaupapa Māori Mooting Competitions.
Judge Coxhead is one of four Distinguished Alumni along with My Food Bag CEO Kevin Bowler and professional directors Liz Coutts ONZM and Tania Te Rangingangana Simpson.