“Chris Finlayson has had a distinguished career of public service and is an outstanding alumnus of this University. We are proud to recognise his achievements with our highest honour,” says Chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith.
Born and raised in Wellington, Chris Finlayson studied Latin, French, and Law at the University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1980 and a Master of Laws in 1985.
He practised as a solicitor in Wellington after being admitted to the bar, where his work included supporting Ngāi Tahu with its Treaty of Waitangi claim through a series of high-profile court appearances, culminating in the signing of a settlement in 1997.
In 2005, he became a member of Parliament for the National Party and, after the 2008 general election, he was appointed attorney-general and minister for Treaty of Waitangi negotiations. He added associate minister of Māori Affairs to his portfolios in 2011.
Chris Finlayson is particularly known for his work to resolve Treaty claims. During his term as minister, he was present at the signing of 59 Treaty deeds of settlement. Highly regarded for his work in this area, he received praise from political parties, iwi, and hapū, as well as worldwide attention.
In 2014, Chris Finlayson oversaw the Te Urewera Act, a key part of the Treaty settlement negotiated between Tūhoe and the Crown. In a legally unprecedented world first, Te Urewera, which was named a national park in 1954 and managed as Crown land by the Department of Conservation, became a legal entity with all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person.
After the 2014 general election, in addition to his existing portfolios, he was made minister in charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and minister responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau.
Chris Finlayson retired from Parliament in early 2019 to return to the Bar.
Throughout his legal career, he has maintained links with the University, teaching and guest lecturing several courses in the Faculty of Law and co-authoring McGechan on Procedure, the leading text on the practice and procedure of courts in New Zealand. He is also an ambassador for the University’s Living Pā development.
Graduation ceremonies are being held in Wellington from 8–11 December.