Judges and staff moved quickly to adapt their processes during the COVID-19 lockdown period to ensure that services for participants at the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court, Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua, were not disrupted.
Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua operates at the District Court in Auckland and Waitākere and was deemed an essential service during lockdown. The court continued to hold hearings and pre-court sessions using remote technology at a time when all but priority proceedings elsewhere in the District Court had to be adjourned.
During the first two weeks of Alert Level 4, Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua Judges, Judge Lisa Tremewan in Waitākere and Judge David Sharp in Auckland, convened teleconference hearings from their homes. Court Coordinators and Registrars worked on site at the courthouses to provide administrative support.
The pre-court sessions included the usual collaborative group of lawyers, treatment advisers, police and the court’s Pou Oranga, Matua Rāwiri Pene. Once the hearings began, participants attended court by teleconference or AVL with technical help from their peer supports.
At Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua Waitākere, the court managed to hold a small graduation ceremony for one successful participant, with members from their ‘bubble’ present, in keeping with Alert Level restrictions. The graduate presented the court with an impressive carving, which is now on display at the courthouse.
The Chief Justice, Dame Helen Winkelmann, and Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu personally visited the Waitākere court during this time to hear Judge Tremewan engage with the team and participants by teleconference.
Judge Tremewan expressed her gratitude that Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua was deemed an essential court service when COVID-19 struck Aotearoa. “The team and stakeholders are used to working collaboratively and constructively, so we were able to readily adapt processes despite working in unchartered territory.
“It was vital that the court kept going, as the participants require continued support and oversight to continue their recovery journeys, especially during such a challenging time.”
To read more about the work of the Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua courts, visit the District Court website: