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 Susan Thomas

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

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

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 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

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 2020:[6]

NameAppointedResident courtNotes
Susan Thomas 2014 Wellington Chief High Court Judge (31 May 2020 – present)[7]
Geoffrey Venning2002AucklandFormer Chief High Court Judge (1 June 2015 – 31 May 2020)[7]
Simon France2005Wellington
Graham Lang2005Auckland
Jillian Mallon2006Wellington
Ailsa Duffy QC2007Auckland
Edwin Wylie QC2008Auckland
Rebecca Ellis2009Wellington
Timothy Brewer ONZM2010Auckland
Mary Peters2010Auckland
Mark Woolford2010Auckland
Christian Whata2011Auckland
Sarah Katz2012Auckland
David Gendall2013Christchurch
Cameron Mander2013Christchurch
Rachel Dunningham2014Christchurch
Simon Moore QC2014Auckland
Matthew Muir QC2014Auckland
Anne 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
The Hon. Francis Cooke QC2018Wellington
Robert Osborne2018Christchurch[8]
Ian Gault2018Auckland[8]
Tracey Walker2019Auckland[9]
Cheryl Gwyn2019Wellington[10]
Jan‑Marie Doogue2019Wellington[11]
Neil Campbell QC2020Auckland[12]
Robert Dobson QC2020WellingtonActing Judge appointed for 12 months from 4 July 2020, originally appointed 2007
Melanie Harland2020Auckland[13]
Andru Isac QC2020Wellington[13]
Michael Robinson2021Auckland[14]

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. "Judicature Amendment Act 1979". New Zealand Legislation. 2018-01-30. Retrieved 2021-05-08.
  2. "History and role — Courts of New Zealand". www.courtsofnz.govt.nz. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
  3. Criminal Procedure Act 2011, section 74(3).
  4. Criminal Procedure Act 2011, sections 66 to 70.
  5. "The Judges and Associate Judges of the High Court". Courts of New Zealand. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  6. "Susan Thomas the new Chief High Court Judge". The Beehive. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  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. "Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security appointed a Judge of the High Court". The Beehive. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  10. "Appointment of Judge of the High Court". The Beehive. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  11. "Appointment of Judge of the High Court". The Beehive.
  12. "Appointment of Judges of the High Court". The Beehive.
  13. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/appointment-judge-high-court-21