New Zealand

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1. Introduction

A. History And Background

New Zealand comprises two main islands and a number of smaller islands situated in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 2,100 kilometres south east of the Australian coastline.

Total population is approximately 4 million, with about 75 per cent of the population living on the North Island. Wellington is the capital, but Auckland is the largest and most populous city and the commercial hub.

New Zealand was colonised in the 19th century and was subject to a formal treaty in 1840, signed between the representatives of the British Crown and the indigenous Maori people.

The currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD).

B. Legal System

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected Parliament. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, whose personal representative in New Zealand is the Governor General.

Parliament is the governing body, made up of 120 members, and consisting of a single house referred to as the House of Representatives. Ministers, who head government departments, form the Cabinet, which is the decision-making body of the parties in power.

New Zealand has a common-law legal system derived from England. The law is based on a substantial body of statute law, supplemented by common-law decisions of the courts.

The New Zealand court system has four tiers:

  • District Court
  • High Court
  • Court of Appeal, and
  • Supreme Court (NZ).

With effect from mid-2004, the government abolished appeals to the Privy Council.

Editorial Board
John W Hart TEP
Barrister and Notary Public, Auckland, New Zealand

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