Meet Jason Cooper, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust

Originally from Ōtautahi Christchurch, Jason now works locally in Te Tōangaroa as a Senior Legal Counsel for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust. We had a kōrero with Jason about his journey north to Tāmaki, with a stint in London along the way, his legal career, and his passion for music.

Law wasn’t always the dream for Jason. He initially hoped to become a primary school teacher, but his love for debating in high school led him down a different path. "I initially went to uni for a year, just to try it out, but I ended up pursuing a law degree so that I could continue university debating which was my real passion" he recalls. "I like ideas, testing them, and throwing them around, and I have always had a strong sense of justice."

This strong sense of justice propelled him into a legal career. One of the highlights early in his career was working in Wellington on his first case for the Kōhanga Reo Trust on their Treaty of Waitangi Claim. Impacted by his work with the Kōhanga Reo Trust on a personal level, Jason embarked on a journey to learn te reo Māori and continues to learn today as a student at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa enrolled in Te Rōnakitanga ki Te Reo Kairangi.

While in Wellington, Jason also joined the Orpheus Choir of Wellington. Music has always been a vital part of his life. Growing up in the church, he was introduced to music early, playing the double bass and piano, and singing in school choirs. "Singing lessons really changed my voice, and I learned to sing in an operatic style using my whole tinana."

Jason's musical journey has led him to become a member of the Board organising the World Choir Games, which takes centre stage in the precinct at Spark Arena this month. This prestigious event will bring together choirs from all over the world.

As the World Choir Games approach, Jason is excited about the global exposure Aotearoa will receive. "I’m looking forward to international groups seeing New Zealand and the connections that will be made," he says. The event is expected to be a significant boost for the local economy, bringing in thousands of participants and spectators.

For Jason, Tāmaki is more than just a place to live; it's home where he has bought his own whare and settled. "It's an international city, connected to the world," he says. He loves the central location of Te Tōangaroa, the green spaces like Māhuhu ki te Rangi Park, and the vibrant art installations that lift the spirit of the area.

Through his work in both law and music, Jason hopes to highlight the power and strength of celebrating diversity. "There's strength in leaning into cultural diversity whether it’s in the work I do, or through music" he believes. "Our differences are what makes Aotearoa special."


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