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High Court Judgments of Public Interest


This page provides access to judgments of the High Court in the last 90 days deemed to be of particular public interest.

More information about finding court judgments is available on the judgments section of this website.

 It is the responsibility of users of the information contained in these decisions to ensure compliance with conditions or other legal obligations governing access, release, storage and re-publication. See also the guide on statutory provisions that prohibit publication of certain information in certain circumstances. If in doubt you should consult the court that issued the decision(s).  Judicial Decisions are presented in PDF format to preserve the integrity of the documents.

Guide on statutory provisions prohibiting publication

Rewiti v The Māori Women’s Welfare League Inc
19 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2713

Partially successful application for judicial review brought against the Maori Women's Welfare League Inc Te Ropu Wahine Maori Toko i te Ora. The first ground of review relating to changes made to the Constitution in 2013 fails. There was no breach of the constitutional"due notice" requirement; the notice given in the circumstances was appropriate. The second ground of review relating to changes made to the Handbook in 2015 succeeds. A vote on changes to the Handbook was required and could only have passed by 51 per cent majority. Therefore, those changes in 2015 are invalid. However, this had no practical effect on the outcome of the 2017 election and no further orders are made. The third ground of review becomes moot in light of the conclusion on the second ground.

R v Duff
18 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2690

Seventeen year minimum period for murder of a nine-month old. At least three instances of significant force to the head. Injuries described as "devastating". Personal circumstances did not give rise to manifest injustice. Discussion of relevance of cultural reports in serious offences.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Auckland v Boynton
09 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2636

The Catholic Bishop of Auckland applied for an interlocutory injunction requiring the defendants to provide vacant possession of the Diocese’s land, formerly used for the Hato Petera College and accompanying boarding facilities. The defendants occupied the land in protest of the Diocese’s retention of the land, despite the recent closure of the college, which they say is contrary to the purposes for which the Diocese was granted the land.

Application granted. Held, the defendants may have legitimate claims concerning the use and ownership of the land (the Court makes no ruling on the matter), but the issue for determination is a clear question of property rights. Importantly, in terms of the balance of convenience, granting the application does not prevent the defendants from bringing any claims they may have.


R v Nuku
05 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2609

Sentence of seven years' imprisonment imposed for seven charges, including the lead charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The lead offence falls within the upper end of band two of Taueki and a starting point of nine years' imprisonment is imposed . An uplift of three months' imprisonment is imposed to reflect the other six charges and the totality of the offending . A further uplift of three months' is imposed to reflect Mr Nuku's previous relevant convictions . Two months' imprisonment is deducted to reflect Mr Nuku's engagement in rehabilitation and treatment to address the triggers of his offending. A full 25 per cent discount is given for Mr Nuku's guilty plea.

R v Hone
05 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2605

Sentencing notes.  Defendant pleaded guilty to two charges of murder, two of threatening to kill and one of manufacturing methamphetamine. The murder charges were second strike offences.  Held:  manifestly unjust to sentence to life without parole. Sentence imposed:  Life Imprisonment with minimum non-parole period of 20 years (after starting point of 24 years reduced for personal medical condition and guilty plea).

R v Yates
05 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2600

Sentencing for murder, following trial.  Defendant repeatedly shot the victim and then hid his body. Section 104 of the Sentencing Act 2002 not quite engaged . Fifteen-year minimum imposed.

The Attorney-General v Dotcom
01 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2564

Successful appeal against decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal (the HRRT). The HRRT had upheld a complaint by Mr Dotcom that the transfer of his urgent requests for information under the Privacy Act 1993 from numerous government agencies and Ministers to Crown Law and the Attorney-General's subsequent decision to decline those requests on the grounds that they were vexatious were an interference with his privacy. The HRRT awarded Mr Dotcom $90,000 in damages and ordered the agencies to comply with the requests.

Held (1): there was a proper and lawful purpose for the transfer of the requests under s 39(b)(ii) as the information that was the subject of the requests were more closely connected with the functions or activities of Crown Law in conducting the litigation in respect of which the claim for urgency was made.

Held (2): in the context of this case, there was sufficient evidence to support an objective assessment that the insistence that all of the requests were required to be responded to urgently on the grounds that they were relevant to legal proceedings meant that the requests were vexatious.

Held (3): the damages awarded were wholly erroneous as there was no evidential basis for assuming that the information sought would have been relevant to the proceedings and there was no direct evidence relating to Mr Dotcom having suffered loss of dignity or injury to feelings such as to warrant an award under s 88(1)(c).



Taylor v Attorney General
28 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2557

In October 2016, management and officers at Auckland prison strip searched 209 prisoners, including Mr Taylor and Mr Smith. The search was ordered after several prisoners assaulted officers using weapons.  Mr Taylor and Mr Smith did not take part in the assault.  The High Court ruled that Corrections breached the Corrections Act 2004 by strip searching Mr Taylor and Mr Smith , and breached their right under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 to besecure against unreasonable search.  Corrections had no reasonable grounds to believe Mr Taylor or Mr Smith were in possession of weapons or other contraband.  The Court awarded $1000 each in compensation.

R v Ross and Wehipeihana
28 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2552

Sentencing of Mr Ross and Mr Wehipeihana on three charges of obtaining by deception and two charges of using a forged document.

The offending involved representations about the number of pre-sale purchasers for an apartment development. It involved the use of forged documents, sale and purchase agreements, purchase acknowledgements, and deeds of acknowledgement and forfeiture to substantiate and then conceal the fraud . As a result of the representations, a credit facility of approximately $41 million was obtained to undertake the development.

Starting point of five years and six months' imprisonment for Mr Ross. Discounts for remorse (five months), prior good character (four months), admissions of fact made to reduce the cost of trial (two months), and health concerns (three months), brought the sentence down to four years and four months' imprisonment.

Starting point of five years' imprisonment for Mr Wehipeihana, based on his relatively lesser role in the offending than Mr Ross. Discounts for remorse (four months), good character post the offending (three months), and admissions of fact to reduce the cost of trial (two months), brought the sentence down to four years and three months' imprisonment.

Minimum periods of imprisonment considered unnecessary in respect of both offenders.

Re CBL Insurance Ltd (In Liquidation)
28 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2547

Application for directions by interim liquidators as to whether commutation agreement with largest creditor within the interim liquidators' powers- scope of statutory powers of interim liquidator- whether  proposed agreement satisfied statutory  purpose. Application dismissed.


The Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development v L
26 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2528
Media release

Judgment released today explains that Benefit Review Committees established by legislation to review decisions made by Ministry of Social Development may not use fictitious names and signatures when issuing their decisions.


R v Nuku
26 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2510

Third-strike sentencing on seven-year maximum offences. Parole ineligibility for seven years not manifestly unjust, but preventive detention the better sentencing option. Defendant violent and dangerous. Preventive detention only sentence likely to encourage reform.

NZ Steel Ltd v Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
18 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2454
Media release

Judicial review application by NZ Steel against Minister's decision (based on investigation and advice from MBIE) that Chinese galvanised steel coil imports were subject only to minimal subsidisation such that no material injury is being caused to domestic industry and that no duty should be imposed under the Dumping and Countervailing Act 1988. HC held MBIE applied wrong law in deciding whether entities providing alleged subsidies to Chinese producers qualified as "government". Minister also inadequately informed about relevant information from overseas investigations into similar matters which had come to contrary conclusions. Minister's decision quashed and reinvestigation ordered.

Solicitor-General v Heta
18 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2453

The Solicitor-General appeals a 30% discount for “background and cultural information” based on a s27 report on the grounds it is precluded by current authority.

There is no fixed limit on discounts available in s 27 reports; nor is there a clear “range” for personal deprivation discounts generally. Rather, the Court has discretion to grant discounts for factors within a report which bear on moral culpability or rehabilitation. The Judge was entitled to consider the impact of systemic deprivation on Ms Heta as well as her personal background. The s 27 information showed discounts were warranted for background, restorative justice, and rehabilitation; the global discount awarded while high does not required correction.

R v Lawes
18 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2448

Defendant pleaded guilty to three charges of entering into a dealing involving a person under 18 for the purposes of sexual exploitation, a representative charge of knowingly being concerned in the importation of objectionable publications, and one charge of being in possession of objectionable publications. The defendant live streamed children being sexually exploited and abused. He also downloaded objectionable material via the internet, and kept some of that material on his home computers.

The lead charges were the three charges of entering into a dealing involving a person under 18 for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The aggravating features were the youth of the victims, the situational vulnerability of the victims, the harm caused to the victims, premeditation, and the extent of the offending. The mitigating feature of the offending was that the defendant did not record the live stream shows, nor did he disseminate them to other persons. A starting point of eight years' imprisonment was taken for these three charges. This was uplifted because of the importation and possession offending.  Allowing for totality, the overall starting point was eight years and six months' imprisonment.

A discount of one year and three  months was allowed to reflect the defendant's prior good character and reparation payments. Further separate discounts of six months and nine months were applied for the defendant's age and cooperation with the police. A discount of 25 per cent for the defendant's guilty pleas was then applied. The end sentence was therefore four years and six months' imprisonment.


Bligh v Earthquake Commission
11 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2392

Mr Bligh had agreement with funder for them to pay legal costs for earthquake litigation. As trial approached, lawyers and litigation funder urged Mr Bligh to settle with EQC/IAG. Lawyers kept preparing for trial, also tried to settle case. On morning of trial, funder cancelled the funding agreement because Mr Bligh refused to settle. Mr Bligh did not go to Court at start of trial. Judge allowed lawyers to withdraw, entered judgment against Mr Bligh. High Court Judge has held lawyers not liable for costs wasted in preparing for abandoned trial and incurred in having judgment set aside.

R v Jefferies
07 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2363

Defendant sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 11 years for the murder of his former partner. Defendant had killed the victim and concealed her body in a vehicle in a lake, where it was not found for almost a year.

M v Roper
05 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2330
Media release

A claim by M, a former Aircraftsman for the Royal New Zealand Air Force who says she was abused by Mr Roper (then a Sergeant) in the 1980s. M claimed she has suffered from distress, depression, anxiety and PTSD because of the abuse. She claimed against Mr Roper and the Attorney-General for assault, false imprisonment and the intentional infliction of emotional distress; and from the Attorney-General separately for negligence.

HELD: Although many of M's allegations of abuse were accepted, and although there was a causal connection between the abuse and M's PTSD, M's claim was barred by both the Limitation Act 1950 and by the Accident Compensation Act 2001.

R v Taukava
31 August 2018
2018[2018] NZHC 2290

Defendant pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter, two charges of making a false statement in a logbook, one charge of failing to deliver the logbook to the employer and one charge of not taking 10 hours rest. The defendant had been driving a heavy truck and trailer unit. He had lost control of the truck and collided with a motorcyclist, killing him. Manslaughter as the lead charge. Aggravating features~ excessive speed, knowledge of inadequate sleep or rest, the conduct and fact the defendant was not wearing a seatbelt at the time. A starting point of three years and six months' imprisonment. An uplift of three months for numerous infringement notices. A discount of two months for remorse. A discount of nine months for guilty pleas. End sentence of two years and 10 months' imprisonment for the manslaughter charge. The defendant was also sentenced to disqualification from driving a heavy goods vehicle from the date of his release.

The Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board v The Environmental Protection Authority
28 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2217

Successful appeal against a decision of the Environmental Protection Authority in relation to the issue of a consent to the extraction of up to 50 million tons a year of iron sands from the South Taranaki Bight and the discharge of sediment from the mining activity. Determination on the meaning of "adaptive management approach" in the context of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (the Act). Interpretation of a number of the provisions of the Act including its information principles and the obligation to favour caution and environmental protection.

R v Wellington
24 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2196

Two offenders convicted of supplying and possessing methamphetamine for supply are sentenced to thirteen years' and seven years' imprisonment. The court departed from the Fatu bands in relation to one offender on the basis of her limited role and drug addiction. 

Waimea Nurseries Limited v Director-General for Primary Industries
23 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2183

Application for judicial review by various fruit producers and orchardists against a decision by the Ministry for Primary Industries to seize/contain/destroy 47,827 trees as ((unauthorised goods" under s 116 of the Biosecurity Act 1993, which does not contemplate statutory compensation. The trees had been tested by a United States institution between 2012 and 2018. The institution subsequently lost its accreditation status after incorrectly reported test results were discovered during an audit. The Ministry claimed the trees were unauthorised goods because they had obtained biosecurity clearance following the receipt of misleading information. Application for judicial review successful because the trees are not unauthorised goods. Held that misleading information must relate to the particular goods, and there was no such information here. Also held that the trees planted in the ground are not ((goods" because they have become part of the land. The appropriate biosecurity powers in this case are instead found in ss 114, 121 and 122, which allow for statutory compensation.

R v Taylor
23 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2170

Sentence: preventive detention imposed on two charges of kidnapping, one charge of rape and one charge of unlawful sexual connection. A minimum parole period of 10 years' imprisonment imposed for that offending; on the charge of attempted rape sentenced to five years' imprisonment; and on the charges of aggravated robbery, indecent assault and robbery sentenced to three years' imprisonment. All sentences to be served concurrently.

R v Waitokia
21 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2146

Seven years' imprisonment imposed for wounding with intent to injure. Defendant stabbed victim in the calf without warning. Three strikes regime: third-strike. Not manifestly unjust for maximum sentence to be served without parole.

R v H
21 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2144

Sentence of 12 years and two months' imprisonment for serious sexual offending against three granddaughters, including repeated instances of rape and anal violation.

L&M Coal Holdings Ltd v Bathurst Resources Ltd
17 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2127

Successful claim for recovery of debt pursuant to contract for the sale and purchase of coal mining permits. Plaintiffs claim that "shipped" meant "transported" upheld, meaning the relevant amount of coal had been shipped from the permit areas, which triggered performance payment under the contract. First defendant's construction of cl 3.10, which stated non-payment of performance payment if increased royalties paid would not be an actionable breach, rejected. Plaintiffs alternative arguments that cI 3.10 gave rise to a discretion which could only be exercised for proper purposes rejected. Declaration that the debt is due and owing, and order that first defendant pay US$40 million.

Bligh v Earthquake Commission & IAG
16 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2102

Whether damage observed in old house and shed after the 4 September 2010 Darfield earthquake was caused by that earthquake or others. Whether cracks in exterior brickwork could have been caused by loss of support from rotten wooden beams and work in replacing those beams or other causes.

Stumpmaster v Worksafe New Zealand
09 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2020

Three appeals against sentences imposed on companies fined under s 48 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HASWA) for failing to comply with a workplace duty, such failures having exposed someone to risk of death, serious injury or serious illness. The maximum fine has risen from $250,000 under the previous Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 to $1.5 million under s 48 of HASWA and this Court has convened to review the existing guidelines. The Court has set out what is required in approaching sentencing under the HASWA and four guideline bands to be used in fixing the fine. In relation to the individual appeals, two ofthe appeals are dismissed and one is allowed. For Tasman Tanning Co Ltd, the existing fine of $380,000 is quashed and a fine of $363,000 is imposed in its place.

R v Malcolm Rewa
06 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 1846

Mr Rewa faces a third trial of the charge of murder. He applied for discharge or stay of the charge of murder. Transitional provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 applied. The application for discharge was under s 347 Crimes Act 1961. There was sufficient evidence to support the charge. There was no requirement for fresh evidence for a third trial. While there had been a significant passage of time from the first two trials there was no general or specific prejudice. It was not unfair for the Crown to change its position and lift the stay. While there had been significant publicity Mr Rewa could still have a fair trial. Application for stay/discharge dismissed.

R v Xu, Chen & Jiang
03 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 1971

Sentencing of three defendants (lawyer, bank officer and wife of property developer) for their involvement in a large-scale mortgage fraud, involving 57 loan applications and borrowings of approximately $54 million. The defendants were involved to varying degrees; Ms Xu provided lower level support, while Mr Chen and Mr Jiang's involvement was essential to the scheme and included a gross breach of trust arising from,  respectively, Mr Chen's status as solicitor, and Mr Jiang's status as a bank officer employed by one of the victim banks.

Ms Xu was sentenced to concurrent sentences of one year's home detention for charges of obtaining by deception, having received a discount of nine months for her previous good character, remorse, and her difficult personal circumstances.

Mr Chen was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 6 years' imprisonment for obtaining by deception and one year and six months' imprisonment for corruptly giving secret commissions to insider bank officers (Jiang and Cheng). He received a discount of six months to reflect his personal circumstances (not including remorse). He received an MPI of 50 per cent.

Mr Jiang received concurrent sentences of four years and nine months' imprisonment for his obtaining by deception offending and one year and six months' imprisonment for corruptly receiving secret commissions. He received a discount of nine months to reflect his personal circumstances, includ ing his previous good character and remorse. He also received an MPI of 50 per cent.

Waho v Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
31 July 2018
[2018] NZHC 1935

As a member of Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board Mr Waho took actions of his own volition when his fellow trustees failed to take steps he believed it was necessary to take. He was removed from office. Mr Waho brought proceedings seeking a declaration that he was unlawfully removed. Held: Mr Waho acted in pursuance of his contractual and fiduciary duties and in accordance with the trust deed. The Board had no objectively supportable factual foundation for asserting Mr Waho had brought the Trust into disrepute. As the condition precedent for exercising its discretion to remove Mr Waho was not satisfied, it followed that Mr Waho was wrongfully removed and entitled to a declaration to that effect. As well, he was entitled to payment of the honorarium which he would have received but for his unlawfully.

Department of Internal Affairs v Qian DuoDuo Limited
27 July 2018
[2018] NZHC 1887

Determination of appropriate pecuniary penalty for civil liability acts in terms of Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009. Defendant had accepted liability for four civil liability acts; failure in respect of risk assessments, failure to carry out enhanced customer due diligence, customer due diligence and account monitoring, and failed to keep records. Substantial number of transactions and significant amounts of money transacted. Plaintiff, DIA, sought pecuniary penalties of $2.496 million.

Held: Notwithstanding liability accepted a number of relevant factors placed nature and extent of the civil liability acts at lowest end, while the circumstances of the offending also substantially reduced QDD's culpability. After adjusting for overlaps between the civil liability acts the starting point for the four acts was assessed at $420,000. This was uplifted by $25,000 for a discrete act of misleading conduct by defendant in course of investigation before applying an overall discount of 20 per cent for admission of liability and cooperation generally. Final penalty assessed at $356,000.

R v Lewis
27 July 2018
[2018] NZHC 1877

Sentence of life imprisonment with minimum non-parole period of 11 years for murder and three years imprisonment for aggravated robbery.

Blumberg v Frucor Beverages Ltd
26 July 2018
[2018] NZHC 1876

The proceeding is brought by three drivers who lost use of their cars for the period necessary to repair collision damage negligently caused by other drivers, the cost of repair being borne by the at-fault drivers (though really their insurers). The not at-fault drivers replace their cars with replacement cars rented for the period of the repair work. They hire those cars from a company whose business is to provide not at-fault owners with replacement cars, and to obtain authority from the not at-fault drivers to reclaim those costs from the at-fault drivers (or rather their insurers). In these three cases, the insurers have refused to pay. At issue is whether the at-fault drivers are liable to the not at-fault drivers for the price of the replacement vehicles charged. The Court ultimately finds that they are.

Held, after a lengthy discussion of NZ, UK, and Australian authorities, the Court concludes the pleadings - which sought special damages for the cost of the replacement vehicle - should be reframed as a claim for mitigation expenses. The replacement cars are hired to (fully) mitigate the loss of use of undamaged cars for the period of the repair. The issue then becomes reasonableness of incurring the mitigation expenses, and that is an objective test from the perspective of what would have appeared reasonable to the not at-fault drivers at the time. After discussing the position of those drivers further, and comparing the company's pricing with other car rental companies (while acknowledging the distinctiveness of the company's business model), the Court finds the mitigation Company's apparent disavowal that they should ever be required to pay for their replacement car hires, does not entitle insurers to avoid liability to the at-fault drivers (and, on their behalf, to the not at-fault drivers).

Axiomatic Media Pty Ltd t/a Axiomatic Events v Regional Facilities Auckland Ltd (Minute)
25 July 2018
Fuji Xerox NZ Ltd v Whittaker
14 May 2018
[2018] NZHC 1043

A law firm asks to access documents in relation to a proceeding not yet determined. The Court analyses the meaning of "a register or an  index" in r 4 of the Senior Courts (Access to Court Documents) Rules 2017. The reference does not appear elsewhere in the Act, Senior Courts Act 2016, or other legislation. Giving it a contextual meaning, Court held it cannot mean any register or index that happens to be kept in a registry (for instance, an index of registry staff contract details). Instead, "a register or an index" is interpreted to include any list of 'documents' or 'court files', as those terms are defined in r 4.

Formerly, the registry maintained a register, into which was entered the civil proceedings filed in each court's registry - each court file containing an index of the documents collected in it. Now there is an electronic database, from which may be generated user-defined lists of its contents. Among those is a document styled 'Register of documents filed', which is produced for each civil proceeding. The Court interprets the request for access to the "proceedings index" to be to the register of documents filed in the present proceeding, being "a register or an index" to which there is a public right of access.