Working group

Meet the people leading the mahi

Current working group members are:

Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin (Chair), Hon. Raynor Asher QC, Wi Pere Mita, Gabrielle O’Brien and Anne Waapu.

Read more about each member below.

Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin (Chair)

Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin (Chair)Tēnā koutou katoa. I am the Director of the Civil Justice Centre and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Otago. I grew up in Whakatāne and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Auckland. I have worked in a number of areas of law including civil litigation before moving into academia. I studied for a Masters of Law at Harvard Law School and my PhD at the University of Otago.

My academic work has combined my early legal interest and work experience in human rights law with my later work in civil litigation. My research is focused on developing systems and supports for everyone to be able to access our civil justice system.

There are many people and organisations working hard to improve access to justice for our community. I am excited to be part of this project, which aims to build cohesion in this mahi, ensuring people are aware of each other’s work and developing shared goals to work towards and track our progress against.

Hon Raynor Asher, QC

Hon Raynor AsherI was appointed to the High Court Bench in 2005 and to the Court of Appeal in 2016. I have been a Commercial List judge, Chair of the Rules Committee and Chair of the Media and Courts Committee. I retired in March 2019. In addition to carrying out my practice, I am currently Chair of the Media Council and am editing the Criminal Jury Trial Bench Book for the New Zealand courts. I am a member of the Vanuatu and Cook Islands Courts of Appeal.

I practice in the area of alternative dispute resolution and the giving of advice. I specialise in arbitration, mediation, opinions and litigation advice.

There is a failure in Aotearoa in providing access to civil justice, and as a life-long civil lawyer I acknowledge the problem, and will do all I can to fix it, so that ordinary Kiwis can more effectively and economically process their civil disputes.

Wi Pere Mita

Wi Pere MitaIwi affiliations - Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga a Mahaki / Te Whānau a Kai, Waikato/Tainui

I am a lawyer, mediator and consultant with over 10 years' experience in dispute resolution, governance and law. I am a member of the Institute of Directors and hold a number of directorships and governance roles in the commercial, not-for-profit and private sectors. I have practice experience in the areas of family law, intellectual property, employment and HR, media, broadcasting & entertainment law and Māori legal issues.

I have a long history with Community Law having been involved in various roles including as a member of the Community Law Centres o Aotearoa National Board and Chair of the Māori Caucus. I also sit on the Board of Directors of Resolution Institute.

I am passionate about social justice and excited about the impact Wayfinding for Civil Justice will have on access to justice across the board.

Gabrielle O’Brien

Gabrielle O'BrienAs part of the working group I hope to contribute some of the experience I have gained from my career as a human resources specialist, coach, facilitator and mediator and general manager in the professional services and charitable sector. My current role or “day job” is as the Chief Executive of Rural Women New Zealand, a for purpose organisation that works to strengthen, support and connect rural communities.

Having worked with conflict resolution professionals, as the Chief Executive of LEADR NZ (now part of the Resolution Institute) and also with lawyers across the profession in roles at the New Zealand Law Society, I know that there is a huge desire to improve access to justice by providers of services. Equally having worked in the social services sector as the Chief Executive of a charity focussed on single parent families and now working with women in rural communities, I am also acutely aware of the reality and impact that barriers to access to justice have on the everyday lives of New Zealanders.

I’m hoping that the Wayfinding for Civil Justice work will help build cohesion and collaboration amongst Access to Justice providers, thinkers and disruptors. There’s space for everyone to make their contribution in the way that works for the communities they serve.

Anne Waapu

Anne WaapuHe uri tēnei nō Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Hinemanu, Ngāti Kahungunu me Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi. I grew up in Hastings surrounded by community leaders who were always doing what they could to restore peace in our neighbourhood and wider communities. From kaumātua to union reps to lawyers, their gatherings gave me an insight to the scale and diversity of mahi required to address issues between people.

Now with a background in criminal justice psychology, Kaupapa Māori research and experiences observing/party to efforts seeking justice, I can see why those leaders got excited when they shared an issue they were working on and found another was doing something similar. I now also share their frustrations at the various barriers encountered when seeking justice.

I am enthusiastic that Wayfinding for Civil Justice is one of those small-but-big steps forward that in collectively doing, we can more systematically improve access to civil justice.