High Court of New Zealand

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.

High Court of New Zealand
Te Kōti Matua o Aotearoa (Māori)
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 Venning
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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 hears cases in the first instance which exceed the jurisdiction of the District Court and other lower courts. This includes civil claims exceeding $350,000, and serious criminal cases such as homicides. In its appellate function, the High Court hears appeals from the District Court, other lower courts and various tribunals.

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, 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

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

The Court generally deals only with those civil claims that exceed the jurisdiction of the District Court or other courts and tribunals, including cases where the amount in dispute exceeds $350,000 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 (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

The following are the judges of the High Court as of July 2019:[6]

NameAppointedResident courtNotes
Geoffrey Venning2002WellingtonChief High Court Judge (since 1 June 2015)
Simon France2005Wellington
Graham Lang2005Auckland
Jillian Mallon2006Wellington
Alisa Duffy QC2007Auckland
Robert Dobson QC2007Wellington
Edwin Wylie QC2008Auckland
Rebecca Ellis2009Wellington
Timothy Brewer ONZM2010Auckland
Mary Peters2010Auckland
Mark Woolford2010Auckland
Christian Whata2011Auckland
Kit Toogood QC2011Auckland
Sarah Katz2012Auckland
David Gendall2013Christchurch
Cameron Mander2013Christchurch
Rachel Dunningham2014Christchurch
Susan Thomas2014Wellington
Simon Moore QC2014Auckland
Matthew Muir QC2014Auckland
Ann Hinton QC2014Auckland
Gerald Nation2015Christchurch
Rebecca Edwards2015Auckland
Karen Clark QC2015Wellington
Matthew Palmer QC2015Auckland
Paul Davison QC2015Auckland
Helen Cull QC2016Wellington
Mathew Downs2016Auckland
Sally Fitzgerald2016Auckland
Christine Gordon QC2016Auckland
Peter Churchman QC2017Wellington
Pheroze Jagose2017Auckland
Gerard van Bohemen2017Auckland
Christine Grice CNZM2018Wellington
Grant Powell2018Auckland
Francis Cooke QC2018Wellington
Robert Osborne2018Christchurch[7]
Ian Gault2018Auckland[7]
Tracey Walker2019Auckland[8]
Cheryl Gwyn2019Auckland[9]
Jan‑Marie Doogue2019Auckland[10]

Relationship with Australian courts

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


  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 13 July 2019.
  7. "Appointments of Judges of the High Court". Scoop. New Zealand Government. 6 December 2018.
  8. "Appointment of Judge of the High Court". beehive.govt.nz. 18 April 2019. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  9. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/inspector-general-intelligence-and-security-appointed-judge-high-court
  10. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/appointment-judge-high-court-19
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