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Kiri Allan – Militant justice minister and her connections to powerful lawyers

Justice Minister Kiri Allan is branding her major portfolio in a way that both reflects a generational shift in the administration of justice and builds on the transformational Pacifica brand finessed by former Bar president and fellow East Coaster, Tiana Epati.

His stoppage of the controversial scheme to reduce court backlogs by paying attorneys $120 a head for clients who accept an early guilty plea was sent back “to the drawing board” to prevent unethical practices.

“This is something that I think is quite overkill and underperforming in policy design,” she said.

A lawyer by training, Kiritapu Allan grew up as a working-class girl with a freezing working-class father and a mother working as a cleaner in a nursing home. The ninth of 10 children, she was raised by both her parents and “aunts and uncles”, she said in an interview.

She studied at the University of Victoria before working with former Prime Minister Helen Clark, working with Chen Palmer, the former firm of Power Lawyer Mai Chen, then as a commercial lawyer in Whakatane before entering to parliament via the party list in 2017 after attending a Labor Party meeting where she met a number of current colleagues, including Jacinda Ardern whom she admires as both prime minister and friend.

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She was also influenced by the late Moana Jackson, Annette Sykes, Horiana Irwin-Easthope and Maia Wikaira with whom she worked at Kahui Legal, among others.

She was elected to Parliament as MP for the East Coast in the landslide Labor Party election of 2020, beating Tania Tapsell, now the newly elected mayor of Rotorua, by more than 6,000 votes.

In June, she was promoted to Minister of Justice after serving as Minister of Conservation and Emergency Management.

Raised eyebrows

Being gay and from a religious family had raised eyebrows, she told E-Tangata.

“But I never saw being gay as a separate and distinct part of my identity. It’s not something I talk about. I don’t have “Kiri is a gay” on my website. But, yeah, I’m sure it colors the way I see the world.

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A 2020 Twitter post with his “little number one boss”

She married Power Lawyer Natalie Coates in 2016 before divorcing (amicably) in 2022 and getting engaged to Radio New Zealand presenter Mani Dunlop.

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Mani Dunlop

Her elevated role as a spokesperson for justice has seen her engage with lawyers on many levels, with a focus on stress reduction for lawyers in the legal aid sector, as well as the government’s emphasis on access to justice.

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Reforms have been announced for the legal aid scheme, including increased eligibility thresholds as well as debt repayment thresholds, as well as a 12% increase in the hourly rate for legal aid providers, although the system still remains tense for lawyers and clients. .

As she wrote in a Law Society article, “Improving access to justice is an ongoing priority for this government and central to every decision I make in this role.

“As someone involved in the work of administering justice, I believe it is important to listen to the voices of those who need access to justice or who have experience in trying to do so. to do, to understand what works and what needs to change.

“As Minister of Justice, I am privileged to be able to enact meaningful change, which means that a major program of law reform is underway, to improve the experience of those who are on the front lines, including the victims and the thousands of lawyers working on their behalf.

Increase in justice expenditure

The Covid pandemic has created major challenges for the judiciary, which has seen an increase in government spending for additional resources to work with the profession, judiciary and court staff to expedite hearings.

The Criminal Process Improvement Program (CPIP) is a multi-agency program run by the judiciary to help avoid unnecessary adjournments and delays.

Take on the challenge

Kiri Allan’s successful elevation as well as her successful battle with cervical cancer, which led to what she describes as her ‘rebirth’, managing her ‘great colorful tribe’ shuttling between their homes in Wellington and the East Coast and comprising two daughters, Pikiarero Hazel, 4, and Hiwaiterangi Allan-Coates, 4.

Challenges that have arisen during the pandemic, as well as changes to legal aid and emphasis on access to justice, including recent issues like the issue of posthumous compensation for Peter’s family Ellis following the overturning of his sexual abuse charges are all on the Justice Minister’s table.

His vigorous approach to work and his ability to meet previous challenges suggests that they will not gather dust on his desk.

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