Coroner Gordon Matenga must resign

Steve Gray reports

The coroner who declined a full inquest into the suicide of a gay soldier is a Mormon church elder who attacked same-sex marriage in a submission to Parliament, saying it was an unnecessary “social experiment”. Gordon Matenga put the submission before MPs just three months before declining to open an inquest into the death of Corporal Douglas Hughes, 26, who took his own life in Afghanistan. His submission brought a carefully worded rebuke from Attorney-General Chris Finlayson on the involvement of the judiciary in political issues. Mr Finlayson said judges and coroners could make submissions “in appropriate circumstances” on well-established technical legal issues. Mr Matenga’s refusal of the inquest – made public last Friday – also came with a broader order suppressing all details relating to the corporal’s death including the Defence Force court of inquiry report. The Defence Force has now refused to comment on any of the details of the case, saying Mr Matenga’s suppression order means it is bound to silence.

So it turns out that Coroner Gordon Matenga is far from a neutral party in this matter.  He  made a written submission to the Select Committee on the Marriage Amendment Bill  

My name is Gordon Matenga. I am 49 years old and live in Hamilton. I have been
married for 26 years and have four children and two grand children. I am making this
submission in opposition to the proposed Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment
Bill (“the Bill”). I am opposed to the Bill for the following reasons:

1. The purpose of Marriage
One of the principal purposes of marriage is for the purpose of bringing a man and a
woman together for the purpose of forging a loving bond with the intention of having
children, and thereby forming the basic unit of our society, a family. Together, a man and
a woman become parents to their children and responsible for raising their family within
the community.

2. A man and a woman are required for procreation
A man and a woman are required to produce children. There is no other way. Same sex
couples cannot, without intervention produce a child. Therefore, to allow a couple of the
same sex to marry would serve no useful purpose as it relates to children.

(read the full submission here – PDF)

Do we expect our Coroners to colour their decisions with their own political and religious outlook, or do we expect them to declare the cause of death and make possible recommendations free from their own religious or  political outlook?

Matenga is a committed senior Mormon and holds/has held the positions of Temple View Stake Patriarch / Temple Sealer at the Church of Latter Day Saints.  He was appointed Coroner by Attorney-General Michael Cullen in 2007.

If his religious views are getting in the way of being able to act as a Coroner on our behalf when the person involved is known to be gay, he can no longer continue to hold that position.

What if a child dies, but it was a child raised by a gay couple?  How will he deal with it then?

Matenga’s views are perfectly valid as a private individual, but they have no place in the Coronial Services.

He must step down now.


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  • My take:

    After reading this I would be inclined to recommend to the Chief Justice to have this coroner sacked for bring the Judicial Branch of the Three Powers (the other being the Executive and the Legislature) into disrepute with his comments and handling of the inquest denial. Our Attorney-General brought a rebuke of the Coroner for his actions accordingly.

    Also rather rich what this person said coming from a known US Cult and speaking against an issue before the Parliament (let alone being a part of the Judiciary Branch)

    • Agent BallSack

      People who follow the teachings of Joseph Smith / Brigham Young honestly scare the bejesus out of me. Southpark mocks it suitably. DUM DUM DUM DUMMMMMM

      • I just realised Cam’s favourite journalist wrote it – David Fisher :P

  • Andrei

    New Zealand becomes more Stalinist by the day – if you don’t toe the official party line…….

    • As I said below in regards to the Attorney General’s rebuke. Coroner Gordon Matenga is that – a Coroner – part of the Judiciary. He as the AG would imply loses his capabilities to personally submit and comment on such a matter that is before the Parliament otherwise we lose neutrality between the Branches of the State.

      If our coroner is so impassioned about the Bill then resign and make the comment as a private citizen

  • tarkwin

    Because he made a submission you don’t like does not mean he is incapable of doing his job. There are many reasons why coroners suppress information. Attacking Mr Matenga is a cheap shot.

    • No, it appears he has foisted his personal beliefs into his job, refusing an inquest, when plenty of inquests occur for much less. Gordon Matenga also has a long, long list of silly coronial decisions.

      • tarkwin

        I like to think as a professional Mr Matenga would seperate his personal opinions from his job. I deal with plenty of people I don’t agree with in a professional manner. As several people mentioned yesterday, we are all bigots it’s just a question of how we deal with it. As an aside, Hamilton is full of Mormons so having a coroner with these beliefs would not be out of step.

        • Bunswalla

          Yes we’d all like to think that, but the evidence suggests otherwise, and it would be wrong to ignore it. Both the armed services and the NZ public have a great deal of interest in how the death of a gay serviceman came about, and in particular what are the circumstances surrounding his presumed suicide.

          For a coroner to decline an inquest in this case raises a lot of eyebrows, and when you read his views on gay marriage (and presumably, given his Mormon Elder status) on gays in general, it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the two points are related.

          • Honcho

            Friends of mine still serving in the armed forces say that there is a lot more to this story then what has been talked about in the media, and that some of what has been reported is false, or clearly falsified. This did however occur in on an operational deployment, and in an area that is still occupied by our troops, although I am sure there are troops who would like nothing more then to set the record straight, speaking out to the media is completely out of the question.
            The question I would like answered is where is, or was the det.commander through all of this, reporting does not make mention of any commissioned officer at all which is beyond strange, If I was to go digging, that would be where I would start.

    • The Attorney General’s rebuke provide an illustration why he (The Coroner) is unable to submit the way he did. Pure conflict of interest that would also apply our in the Private Sector as well

  • Joe Bloggs

    I studied the effects of media reporting on suicide last year. Matenga’s ruling is a damned shame in light of what I found.

    New Zealand has one of the world’s toughest regimes on media reporting of individual suicides. Despite this our suicide rates (particularly youth) are amongst the highest in the developed world. Maori youth are more vulnerable than others with a rate 2.5 times higher than non-Maori.

    Ironically studies in Europe have shown that media reporting can actually be associated with positive outcomes when reporting sensitively focuses on positive outcomes in times of adversity, such as coping with suicide ideation.

    If media coverage can be linked to positive outcomes, then restrictions on suicide reporting in New Zealand (like those imposed by Matenga) constrain the opportunity for positive outcomes.

    Late last year, Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean commented that “we need to gently bring the issue of suicide from out of the shadows” – Matenga needs to get out of the shadows and sign on to making a positive difference.

    • Gently my arse…we need to speak freely and clearly on issues of suicide, the cone of silence has failed in addressing suicide, it is time for it to be smashed.

      • Joe Bloggs

        I don’t disagree Cam – Maclean wants to loosen the restrictions on reporting, but Matenga wants to tighten them – which is completely and utterly counter-productive to addressing the issue of suicide. Matenga is out of step.

  • Agent BallSack

    I notice the family has broken silence on it, thereby sidestepping Coroner Matenga. I think that he is as impartial on the subject as a report into the Labour Party by Whale would be.

    • Bunswalla

      I think he is a good deal less impartial – I’d fully expect Cam to provide an open and honest assessment of the Labour Party, as he has done previously. Credit is always given where it’s due, and sunlight shone where it’s not.

  • peterwn

    Yes – I had a gutsfull of that coroner when he laid into the police (including Constable A) over the Waitara shooting several years ago. Seemed he would have been quite happy to see the duty taxi driver hurt, his taxi smashed up, more shops smashed in and people put at risk while waiting for a police dog to arrive.

  • PlanetOrphan

    Without getting into the Coroners obvious problems.

    The MOD should not have let that kid go back to profess his love.

    They need to (re)-evaluate the procedures they used and try and make sure it never happens again.

  • Apolonia

    Is having Matenga make a submission worse than having Kevin Hague provide an impartial assessment of it.

  • TomTom

    He’s also the coroner that refused to hold a proper inquest on the suicide of a gay soldier. Sounds like a fucking slack arse bludger to me, taking tax dollars and not doing his job

    EDIT: I shall add a Horrid link here…

  • Stu

    Awesome reporting Steve Gray. He is not the Stake Patriarch or a sealer, that is Blair Johnston. Check your link again. Otherwise Vic Parker is the Maori Coroner. What other facts have you got wrong.

  • Rose

    David Fishers article is a load of crud. Even if Matenga is persuaded by his beliefs on traditional marriage, he as a “committed” Mormon would be even more persuaded to uphold the law, and his role within it as per the 12th article of the Mormon Articles of faith. Not enough investigation was carried out on Fishers article, pure speculation and lazy reporting.

  • A typical Mormon forcing his sick views on the rest of society. Their bigotry and homophobia knows no bounds. It is about time that the public are made fully aware of the secret oaths of strict obedience that all Mormons make in their highly secretive Temples. Gordon Matenga, being a Mormon Temple Sealer, dresses in long white robes andalso makes these oaths every time he is in the Mormon Temple.

    Have a look at a typical and genuine Mormon Temple Ceremony filmed in secret and performed in a Utah Temple recently:

  • This is how Mormons and the Mormon Church treated gay people at Brigham Young University not that long ago. Although they have been forced to stop this pernicious and evil practice, they still discriminate against gay people in the church, and subject them to severe church discipline and also public humiliation within the church.

  • Zeb

    He should step down. It’s not his opinions that are the issue it’s that as a judicial officer he expressed them inappropriately. Not only does this look like an improper attempt to influence government, forever more any case before him with a gay angle, is going to reek of the perception of bias. The same result would occur if he had submitted in favour of gay marriage. Resign.