Pacific Islands Law Officers Meet at Auckland

14 December 2011


The Auckland Law School was delighted to co-host, together with the Solicitor-General of New Zealand, David Collins QC, the annual Pacific Islands Law Officers Network (PILON) meeting. Held from 4 to 6 December 2011, the PILON meeting involved the Attorneys- or Solicitors-General, or other law officers such as Secretaries for Justice and Directors of Prosecutions, from 15 Pacific states, including Australia and New Zealand, from Palau in the west to the Cook Islands in the east. Also in attendance were representatives of various organisations including the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Pacific Forum Secretariat, Pacific Islands Maritime Lawyers Association, MFAT, NZAID, Ausaid, MAF, Red Cross, the Pacific Lawyers Association, and others.

The theme of the meeting was sustainable economic development, and the invited speakers included New Zealand lawyers who addressed issues such as climate change, commercialisation of state assets, drafting of commercial and investment legislation, fisheries ventures and fisheries management. Each state presented a country report, highlighting issues for them over the previous 12 months. The Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias addressed the gathering over Monday’s lunch, on the topic of addressing human rights and custom around the region.

PILON is a forum that enables the law officers of the region to “network” and to discuss and consult on common issues. During the meeting the application of Pitcairn Islands, a United Kingdom overseas territory, to become a member was approved.

Professor Paul Rishworth of the Law School, who serves as Attorney-General for Pitcairn Islands, welcomed PILON attendees on behalf of the Law School at an evening reception on Sunday 4 December. He spoke of the Auckland Law School’s Pacific connections and courses, reflecting its presence in the world’s largest Polynesian city and its student body – of whom 9% identify as having Pacific Islands heritage.
Next year’s PILON meeting is to be in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

The PILON meeting was followed by a conference on South Pacific constitutions and the rule of law on 7 December. This was organised by the Legal Research Foundation and attended by many of the PILON delegates. Several of the Law School's Pasifika students led a discussion on 'culture, bribery, electoral offences and election petitions' drawing on research they had presented at the Law and Culture conference in Vanuatu earlier in the year. Former Dean Justice Grant Hammond, who is a judge of the Court of Appeal in Samoa, presented a paper on 'judging in the Pacific' and led a discussion involving a number of New Zealanders who also serve as judges in the South Pacific.