Former Chancellor Sir Ian Barker KC

Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland was saddened to hear of the death of former Chancellor Sir Ian Barker, KC (1934 – 2022) on 11 November 2022.

Sir Ian Barker QC in 1993 (Photo courtesy of NZ Law Society)

Chancellor of the University from 1991 – 1999, and the longest-serving in the role, Sir Ian worked with three vice-chancellors; Sir Colin Maiden, Kit Cason and Sir John Hood.

While he was Chancellor he oversaw changes such as the establishment of the Alumni Association in 1991, the introduction of quotas for first year papers in 1992, and the roll reaching nearly 26,000 students in 1996. He was a leader and champion of tertiary education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Sir Ian was an alumnus who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws in 1958. He was admitted to the New Zealand Bar that year, made Silk in 1973 and was a Judge of the High Court of New Zealand from 1976 to 1997. On the bench he presided over much major commercial litigation and made numerous distinguished contributions to the evolution of the New Zealand court system.

Sir Ian maintained close links with the Faculty of Law Faculty throughout his professional life. He was a part-time lecturer from 1960 – 1973 and in the 1980s was one of the external members (as high court judge) of the Law Faculty entitled to attend and vote at faculty meetings.

He was a longstanding president of the Legal Research Foundation, an independent research body with close physical and intellectual links to the Law Faculty. As Chancellor he presided over the opening of the Law School buildings in May 1992, and served on a number of panels over the years.

Less formally, he was always in touch with the faculty and maintained friendships with many members of staff, including particularly the late Professor Mike Taggart and Professor Ron Paterson.

Chief Justice, the Rt Hon Dame Helen Winkelmann, acknowledged his passing, saying “[He] was an outstanding judge and a true leader of the profession. His distinguished career in the law spanned 60 years of service to the law, to the judiciary – both here and in the Pacific – and to our society. His passing is a loss that will be widely felt." 

He also took on major appointments in New Zealand and abroad, including as Chair of the Banking Ombudsman (1997-2010) and as the New Zealand member of the ACC Arbitration Commission in Paris from 2000.

He was the first World Intellectual Property Organisation domain dispute panellist appointed in New Zealand in 2000, resolving domain disputes for the WIPO, National Arbitration Forum (USA) and Internet New Zealand. He was the president of the Arbitrators’ & Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (2000-2002) and Chair of the Sir George Elliot Charitable Trust (2003-2019).

Sir Ian remained an active member of his community after his retirement. Along with two other retired high court judges and a retired district court judge, he attended Otahuhu College once a week to provide remedial reading assistance to students.

Sir Ian was knighted in 1994 for services to the law and received an honorary LLD from the University of Auckland in 1999.