High Court of New Zealand

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High Court of New Zealand
Te Kōti Matua o Aotearoa (Māori)
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LocationAuckland, Wellington, Christchurch and other main centres
Authorized bySenior Courts Act 2016
Appeals toCourt of Appeal
Appeals from Various Tribunals
Number of positions39 Judges and 7 Associate Judges
Chief High Court Judge of New Zealand
CurrentlyThe Hon Justice Susan Thomas
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The High Court of New Zealand (Māori: Te Kōti Matua o Aotearoa) is the superior court of New Zealand. It has general jurisdiction and responsibility, under the Senior Courts Act 2016, as well as the High Court Rules 2016, for the administration of justice throughout New Zealand. There are 18 High Court locations throughout New Zealand, plus one stand-alone registry.

The High Court was established in 1841.[1] It was originally called the "Supreme Court of New Zealand", but the name was changed in 1980[2] to make way for the naming of an eventual new Supreme Court of New Zealand.[3]

The High Court is a court of first instance for serious criminal cases such as homicide, civil claims exceeding $350,000 and certain other civil cases. In its appellate function, the High Court hears appeals from the District Court, other lower courts and various tribunals.

Composition and locations[edit]

Wellington High Court in 2015

The High Court comprises the Chief Justice (who is head of the judiciary) and up to 55 other Judges (which includes the Justices of the Supreme Court and the Justices of the 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 up until May 2004) 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, Tauranga, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Napier, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Nelson, Blenheim, Greymouth, Timaru, Dunedin, and Invercargill. The Court also has a registry in Masterton.


Criminal matters[edit]

The High Court deals with the most serious types of criminal offences that exceed the District Court's jurisdiction. It deals with all category 4 offences, including murder, manslaughter and treason,[4] as well as any other offence where the accused is likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment or preventive detention. A High Court Judge may direct that a serious category 2 and 3 "protocol" offence, such as aggravated wounding with intent, kidnapping or sexual violation of a child, be transferred from the District Court to the High Court for hearing.[5] Most cases are heard before a Judge and jury, but may sometimes be heard before a Judge alone.

Civil matters[edit]

The Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all civil claims where the amount in dispute exceeds $350,000, and certain categories of proceedings. The categories of proceeding which can only be commenced in the High Court includes matters concerning admiralty, certain applications relating to land (such as seeking its transfer or caveats), company law including liquidations, bankruptcy, the administration of estates and trusts, and trade mark and patent infringement. For civil claims worth less than $350,000, the High Court can have co-extensive jurisdiction with the District Court.

Appellate function[edit]

Rights of appeal to the High Court exist against the decisions of the District Court (except for jury trials), the Family Court, the Youth Court and the Environment Court and numerous administrative tribunals and regulatory bodies.

Judges of the High Court[edit]

The following are the Judges of the High Court as of July 2020:[6]

Name Appointed Resident court Notes
Susan Thomas 2014 Wellington Chief High Court Judge (31 May 2020 – present)[7]
Geoffrey Venning 2002 Auckland Former Chief High Court Judge (1 June 2015 - 31 May 2020)[7]
Simon France 2005 Wellington
Graham Lang 2005 Auckland
Jillian Mallon 2006 Wellington
Ailsa Duffy QC 2007 Auckland
Edwin Wylie QC 2008 Auckland
Rebecca Ellis 2009 Wellington
Timothy Brewer ONZM 2010 Auckland
Mary Peters 2010 Auckland
Mark Woolford 2010 Auckland
Christian Whata 2011 Auckland
Sarah Katz 2012 Auckland
David Gendall 2013 Christchurch
Cameron Mander 2013 Christchurch
Rachel Dunningham 2014 Christchurch
Simon Moore QC 2014 Auckland
Matthew Muir QC 2014 Auckland
Anne Hinton QC 2014 Auckland
Gerald Nation 2015 Christchurch
Rebecca Edwards 2015 Auckland
Karen Clark QC 2015 Wellington
Matthew Palmer QC 2015 Auckland
Paul Davison QC 2015 Auckland
Helen Cull QC 2016 Wellington
Mathew Downs 2016 Auckland
Sally Fitzgerald 2016 Auckland
Christine Gordon QC 2016 Auckland
Peter Churchman QC 2017 Wellington
Pheroze Jagose 2017 Auckland
Gerard van Bohemen 2017 Auckland
Christine Grice CNZM 2018 Wellington
Grant Powell 2018 Auckland
The Hon. Francis Cooke QC 2018 Wellington
Robert Osborne 2018 Christchurch [8]
Ian Gault 2018 Auckland [8]
Tracey Walker 2019 Auckland [9]
Cheryl Gwyn 2019 Wellington [10]
Jan‑Marie Doogue 2019 Wellington [11]
Neil Campbell QC 2020 Auckland [12]
Robert Dobson QC 2020 Wellington Acting Judge appointed for 12 months from 4 July 2020, originally appointed 2007
Melanie Harland 2020 Auckland [13]
Andru Isac QC 2020 Wellington [14]

Relationship with Australian courts[edit]

The Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (NZ), the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (Aust) and the High Court Rules 2016 streamline the process for resolving civil proceedings with a trans-Tasman element. The Acts cover many matters including service, interim relief, hearing matters remotely and the enforcement of judgments of courts of the other country.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Supreme Court Act 1841 (NZ)
  2. ^ Judicature Amendment Act 1979 (NZ), s 12.
  3. ^ "History and role — Courts of New Zealand". www.courtsofnz.govt.nz. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
  4. ^ Criminal Procedure Act 2011, section 74(3).
  5. ^ Criminal Procedure Act 2011, sections 66 to 70.
  6. ^ "The Judges and Associate Judges of the High Court". Courts of New Zealand. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Susan Thomas the new Chief High Court Judge". The Beehive. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  8. ^ a b "Appointments of Judges of the High Court". Scoop. New Zealand Government. 6 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Appointment of Judge of the High Court". beehive.govt.nz. 18 April 2019. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security appointed a Judge of the High Court". The Beehive. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  11. ^ "Appointment of Judge of the High Court". The Beehive. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  12. ^ https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/appointment-judge-high-court-20
  13. ^ https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/appointment-judges-high-court-2
  14. ^ https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/appointment-judges-high-court-2

External links[edit]