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New Zealand

New Zealand

A participé à l’élaboration de cette fiche en Octobre 2013
Anne-Chloé Destremau, étudiante et stagiaire à la SLC.



New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy whose head of state is the Queen of England. The Governor-General represents her in New Zealand.
As a former English colony, New Zealand has a legal system derived from the English one. It comes from two main sources : the Common Law and Statute Law.
The Common Law is a body of law developed by judges’ decisions made in the United Kingdom and in New Zealand. New Zealand courts have developed the United Kingdom’s Common Law, which means New Zealand now differs from the United Kingdom on some aspects of the Common law.
Statute Law, on the other side, is all the Law made by the Parliament. The initiative of Statute Law lies in the Executive.


New laws begin as documents called bills. The Executive drafts bills, which are proposed new laws.
Subsequently, The House of Representatives (the House) debates the bill during a first reading debate. At the end of this debate, the House will decide by majority vote if the bill should progress. If the ‘first reading’ is agreed, the bill is usually referred to a select committee to be considered in more detail.
The select committee examines and amends the text, if necessary.
Then the bill returns to the House to be read a second time. Members of Parliament debate the main principles of a bill, and any changes recommended by the select committee. The bill is submitted to another vote. If the second reading is agreed, the bill is debated by a committee of the whole House. The House forms itself into a committee, to which all members belong, for the bill’s next stage.
It is a less formal but nonetheless important debate. Ministers and members can propose changes. Once the final form of the bill is agreed, it is ready for the third reading.
The third reading is a summing-up debate on a bill in its final form. The vote at the end of the debate is the final vote by House of Representative to either pass the bill or reject it. If the bill passed, it will become law when it receives the Royal assent.
This last step illustrated the difference between the House of Representatives and the Parliament. The Sovereign (The Queen, represented in New Zealand by the Governor-General) forms part of Parliament but is completely separated from the House. It’s the Sovereign’s role to sign the bill into law by giving it the ‘Royal Assent’.

New Zealand’s general courts are structured like a pyramid. At the top is the Supreme Court. Below it, in ascending order, are the tribunals, the district courts, the High Court, and the Court of Appeal.
Except for the High Court, the jurisdiction of the others courts are defined by statute. The High Court has a statutory jurisdiction and an inherent Common Law jurisdiction.
District courts hear most of the cases. But there is a statutory ceiling on the case that the district courts can hear. Cases where the amount in issue is more than $200,000 cannot be heard by the district courts.
The High Court has broad general jurisdiction. The High Court hears all cases where the amount in issue is above $200,000 and specific serious criminal cases, such as murder. It also tends to hear the more serious jury trials, the more complex civil cases and administrative law cases. The High Court has the power to order the removal of civil proceedings from the district courts to the High Court.
In the District Court and High Court the Judge sits alone or with a jury.
Appeals are to a higher court. So the High Court hears most of appeals from the decisions of tribunals and courts below it. Some appeals go directly to Court of Appeal when the law allows it. For example, the Court of Appeal deals with the indictable criminal proceedings heard in District Courts.
The Supreme Court is the final appellate court. But it hears very few cases. In practice, the Court of Appeal is often the last court for an appeal. The Supreme Court must not give leave to appeal unless it is satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of justice for the court to hear and determine the proposed appeal. The Court appreciates this necessity in regards of the following criteria : the appeal involves a matter of general public importance, a matter of general commercial significance, or a significant issue relating to the Treaty of Waitangi ; or a substantial miscarriage of justice may have occurred, or may occur, unless the appeal is heard.
A decision by a higher court is binding on lower courts in their jurisdiction, so decisions by the Supreme Court binds all the New Zealand courts. Cases that are legally similar will generally be decided the same way, conforming to the decisions of a higher court.