Takamore v. Clarke: Tikanga and Merits-Based Resolution of Burial Disputes, a Just Outcome?
36 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2013
Burial disputes are something of a novelty in New Zealand. Most are resolved amicably by those with ties to the deceased. The exception to this has been the long-running case of Takamore v. Clarke, the matter finally being resolved by the Supreme Court this year. Burial disputes raise fundamental issues of religious and cultural identity (including tikanga Māori), personhood, and the meaning of family. Despite their rarity in New Zealand, the response of the law in resolving such disputes should “fit the fuss”, having regard to the context in which they arise. This essay begins by discussing the form of resolution advocated for by the majority and minority in Takamore. Their respective approaches are essentially the same, especially with regards to tikanga Māori. This is one of Court intervention coupled with a merits-based assessment of the dispute. However the Court failed to apprehend there was no pressing need for burial, prior to creating a solution of general application. The experience of comparable jurisdictions, where speedy resolution has been necessary (such as Australia) demonstrates that the role of the Court applying such a test in burial disputes is misconceived. Rather than providing “justice” for the parties concerned, merits-based resolution produces unfair and unconvincing outcomes. The more just response is to ensure the parties never get to Court, via mediation. Insofar as agreement is not possible, the role of the Court should be supervisory in the application of a prescriptive test emphasising expediency and ensuring the dispute is resolved out of Court.
Keywords: Burial disputes, tikanga, Maori, merits-based assessment, Court intervention, mediation, prescriptive test, New Zealand
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation