High Court of New Zealand

High Court of New Zealand
Te Kōti Matua o Aotearoa (Māori)
Established 1841
Country New Zealand New Zealand
Location Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and other main centres
Authorized by Judicature Act 1908
Decisions are appealed to Court of Appeal of New Zealand
Number of positions 56
Website http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/
Chief High Court Judge of New Zealand
Currently The Hon Justice Venning
Since 2014
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The High Court of New Zealand is a superior court of New Zealand. It was established in 1841 and known as the Supreme Court of New Zealand until 1980 (the current Supreme Court of New Zealand first met in 2004).

The High Court has general jurisdiction and responsibility, under the Judicature Act 1908, as well as the High Court Rules, for the administration of justice throughout New Zealand. Jurisdiction extends over both criminal and civil matters, and deals with cases at first instance or on appeal from other courts and certain tribunals.[1]

Composition and locations

The High Court comprises the Chief Justice of New Zealand (who is head of the Judiciary) and up to 55 other Judges (which includes the Judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal). The administrative head of the court is known as the Chief High Court Judge. Associate Judges of the High Court (formerly known as Masters) supervise the Court's preliminary processes in most civil proceedings, and have jurisdiction to deal with summary judgment applications, company liquidations, bankruptcy proceedings, and some other types of civil proceedings.

The High Court Judges and Associate Judges are based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, but also travel on circuit to Whangarei, Hamilton, Rotorua, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Napier, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Nelson, Blenheim, Greymouth, Timaru, Dunedin, and Invercargill. The Court also has registries in Masterton and Tauranga.

Wellington High Court in 2015

Criminal matters

The High Court deals with the most serious types of criminal offences that exceeds the District Court's jurisdiction. It deals with all category 4 offences such as murder, manslaughter and treason, as well as any other offence where the accused is likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment or preventative detention. Serious category 2 and 3 "protocol" offences, such as aggravated wounding with intent, kidnapping or sexual violation of a child, may be transferred from the District Court to the High Court at the request of the prosecution or defendant. Most cases are heard before a judge and jury, but may sometimes also be heard before a judge alone.

Civil matters

The Court generally deals only with those civil claims that exceed the jurisdiction of the District Court or other courts and tribunals, or where particularly complex issues are involved. This jurisdiction includes matters concerning admiralty, company law, bankruptcy, the administration of estates and trusts, property transfer, land valuation, and many other areas.

Appellate function

Rights of appeal to the High Court exist against the decisions of the District Court, the Family Court, the Youth Court and the Environment Court[2] and numerous administrative tribunals and regulatory bodies.

Australian sittings

The Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) and the Judicature Act 1908 (NZ) authorise the High Court to sit in Australia and the Federal Court of Australia to sit in New Zealand. Orders of the High Court sitting in Australia are enforced by the Federal Court of Australia and orders of the Federal Court sitting in New Zealand are enforced by the High Court.


  1. "New Zealand High Court". New Zealand Ministry of Justice, Tāhū o te Ture. Archived from the original on 2005-12-29. Retrieved 2006-01-31.
  2. Decisions of the Environment Court may only be appealed to the High Court on a point of law. Section 299 Resource Management Act 1991 (New Zealand)
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