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 (PDF, 211 KB). 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.

 

 

Case number
[2020] NZHC 3441
Date of Judgment
18 December 2020
Summary
Successful application for an injunction preventing Newsroom publishing a video and related articles concerning the uplift of maori children from pakeha foster parents for relocation with whanau. The stories reported on the details of matters that had been addressed in Family Court proceedings, and included information that identified the foster parents and the children. The publication was accordingly inconsistent with s 11B(3) of the Family Court Act.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3419
Date of Judgment
18 December 2020
Summary
Sentencing of Manchao Li on convictions for murder of former wife, in breach of a protection order. Li sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 19 years for carefully planned murder of particularly vulnerable victim in circumstances of pronounced brutality and callousness; nothing in the circumstances to mitigate the sentence's duration. There being no more serious breach of a protection order than to murder the protected person, the Judge sentenced Li to the maximum possible period of imprisonment (3 years), to be served concurrently.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3410
Date of Judgment
18 December 2020
Summary
The High Court makes orders distributing assets of Steven Robertson and his companies to creditors.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3388
Date of Judgment
17 December 2020
Summary
This decision concerns appeals from an interim decision of the Environment Court (EC) relating to a proposed expansion of a spring water extraction and bottling operation near Otariki. Creswell NZ Ltd applied to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council for various consents, including to take groundwater for the bottling operation. It also applied to the Whakatāne District Council to vary the conditions of an existing land use consent for the existing water bottling plant to allow the expansion. New land use consents were also sought. Independent Commissioners granted the Regional and District applications. Various parties appealed to the EC. The majority decision dismissed the appeals, concluding that the end uses of putting the water in plastic bottles and exporting the bottled water were matters which went beyond the scope of consideration of an application for resource consent to take water from the aquifer under s 104(1)(a) of he Resource Management Act (RMA), that the activity status was a discretionary "rural processing activity", and that the activity was an expansion of an existing activity falling for consideration as a discretionary activity under s 127 of the RMA. Various parties appealed.
HELD: Sustainable Otakiri Incorporated and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa not have standing to become party to each other's appeal under s 301 of the RMA.  The combined nature of the "Jurisdictional Overview"  section of the majority's decision means the alleged error as to the relevance of end use effects of plastic bottles arises in relation to both the Regional and District consent appeals. The EC did not exclude consideration of the end use of exporting the bottled water, irrespective of its conclusion in the Jurisdictional Overview (which went too far). It went on to make factual findings not susceptible to challenge on a s 299 appeal. The EC majority did not err in law when concluding the effects on the environment of using plastic bottles were beyond the scope of consideration in relation to Creswell's application for consent to take water, but the effects of plastic disposal may not as a matter of law always be too remote to warrant consideration -  it is a matter of fact and degree. The EC did not err in concluding that the Regional plans addressed issues relating to the taking of water from aquifers comprehensively . Recourse to Part 2 of the RMA was not required . In relation to the District consents appeal, the relevant activity is appropriately characterised as a discretionary "rural processing activity" rather than a non-complying "industrial activity". The majority also did not err in concluding that Creswell's proposal was appropriately processed as a variation to existing land use consent conditions under s 127 of the RMA.
RESULT : Appeals dismissed.
Media Release
Media Release (PDF, 1.5 MB)
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3368
Date of Judgment
17 December 2020
Summary
Prosecution under s 48 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 in relation to the botched demolition of a home. District Court held the defendant company was not a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in relation to the demolition. WorkSafe New Zealand appealed on a question of law. Act considered.  First one of its nature to reach the High Court. Appeal allowed. A PCBU under s 17 of the Health and Safety at Work Act does not require a contractual relationship.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3350
Date of Judgment
16 December 2020
Summary
Mr Zhang appeared for sentencing on one charge of accessory after the fact to murder, having accepted a sentencing indication of 15 months' imprisonment. The Court imposed an end sentence of six months' home detention. This comprised a starting point of two years nine months, with a 60 per cent discount, including for previous good character, assistance to police and early guilty plea. Home detention was appropriate. Mr Zhang's offending was driven by misguided feelings of familial-like obligations, his prospect of rehabilitation is very high and his risk of reoffending is very low.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3316
Date of Judgment
15 December 2020
Summary
Judicial review and habeas corpus applications to secure the release of Mr Vincent, New Zealand's longest serving prisoner, on the basis that Parole Board decisions refusing his release were incorrect to assess him as being an undue risk and his continued detention contravened ss 9, 22 and 23(5) of the NZBORA.
Held: the challenged Parole Board decisions misapplied the statutory test, failed to take into account relevant considerations and were unreasonable. Mr Vincent's risk did not justify his continued detention and his s 22 NZBORA rights had been breached. Declaratory relief granted and the most recent Parole Board decision was set aside and an order was made for Mr Vincent to be released.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3312
Date of Judgment
15 December 2020
Summary
Sentence for offending against Lingman’s children: GBH (infant left brain-damaged) & other ill-treatment, starting point for GBH 7 y + 2 y other offending.  15% discount for s 27 factors + 10 % for GP.  End sentence is 81 months.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3259
Date of Judgment
09 December 2020
Summary
Sentencing for murder and threatening to kill. Defendant went to isolated location with firearm and an associate to commit suicide. Associate refused to assist and departed. Victims were sleeping nearby in a campervan and were woken by defendant. As male victim attempted to comply with his demands for keys to campervan, defendant twice discharged the firearm into campervan. Male victim died from gunshot wounds. Female victim was threatened before defendant drove away in campervan. But for s 104, MPI of 15 years & 6 months; s 104 engaged- MPI of 17 years manifestly unjust as defendant would receive no benefit for guilty plea. Sentenced to life imprisonment, with MPI of 15 years & 6 months.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3228
Date of Judgment
08 December 2020
Summary
The Thames-Coromandel District Council decided not to approve the Mayor signing the Local Government Leaders' Climate Change Declaration. Hauraki Coromandel Climate Action challenges the decision. Decisions about climate change deserve heightened scrutiny on judicial review, depending on their context. The decision was not unreasonable because it is possible the Declaration could create a legally enforceable legitimate expectation in some circumstances.  But the Council did not do the analysis or consider consultation with the District, as required by the Local Government Act 2002 and its own Significance and Engagement Policy. A declaration is made accordingly, the decision is quashed and the Council is directed to reconsider it.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3203
Date of Judgment
07 December 2020
Summary
Sentencing for one charge of murder. Presumption of life imprisonment (in s 102 of the Sentencing Act 2002) displaced, due to defendant suffering severe mental illness at time of offending . Starting point of 18 years' imprisonment adopted, discounts of 25 per cent for mental health and 19 per cent for guilty plea, resulting in end sentence of ten years' imprisonment. Minimum period of imprisonment of 6 years eight months imposed.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3145
Date of Judgment
30 November 2020
Summary
Sentencing for driving with excess breath alcohol causing death and injury and driving while disqualified, causing the death of defendant's four-year old son. Appropriate starting point of four years' imprisonment. However, circumstances warranted a compassionate approach. Combined discount of 55 percent applied: 15 percent for palpable remorse, grief, and whakamā, 10 percent for positive rehabilitative prospects, and 25 percent for early guilty plea.  End sentence of 21 months' imprisonment was substituted for 10 months' home detention due to substantial mitigating circumstances, particularly the strong prospect of rehabilitation.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2475
Date of Judgment
27 November 2020
Summary
Defendant sentenced for murder, common assault and intentional damage. After several confrontations with another gang member, the defendant went to that member's address and shot a third party victim in the face as he advanced towards him. Starting point for MPI of 11 years and nine months. 12 Percent discount for late guilty plea. Lack of previous serious convictions, relative youth and positive attitude towards rehabilitation justified a further discount of 8 percent. Applying these discounts, and concluding that a life sentence was not manifestly unjust, the court imposed the statutory minimum of life imprisonment with an MPI of 10 years.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3120
Date of Judgment
25 November 2020
Summary
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei seeks declarations as to its rights of mana whenua and corresponding Crown obligations in applying the Crown's Overlapping Claims Policy in central Auckland. The case will be heard from Tuesday 9 February 2021 for up to 10 weeks. In this preliminary judgment, the High Court expresses the issues at a high level. It allows cross-examination of witnesses regarding tikanga and historical issues (by consent) and regarding the illustrative application of the Crown's Overlapping Claims Policy. The Court does not appoint independent pūkenga as court experts to assist the Court, although it has jurisdiction to do so. The expert witnesses called by the parties and interveners in relation to tikanga and historical issues are directed to confer before the hearing.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3111
Date of Judgment
24 November 2020
Summary
A prisoner challenging Corrections' security classification decisions by judicial review is allowed to appear in person. Another prisoner,!who has been assisting him, may not appear but may have two telephone calls with him before the hearing.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3109
Date of Judgment
24 November 2020
Summary
Argos Froyanes Ltd (AFL), which operates two fishing vessels, had unsuccessfully requested Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to issue an invitation to identified overseas workers for a critical purpose visa (to enable the workers to land by air at Christchurch and transfer to the two vessels berthed at Lyttelton). AFL sought judicial review of INZ's refusal and sought as interlocutory relief declarations that the workers were entitled to the visas. The High Court has dismissed the interlocutory application under s 186(3) Immigration Act 2009 (as precluding judicial review of the refusal of temporary class visas to persons outside New Zealand).
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3010
Date of Judgment
13 November 2020
Summary
Unsuccessful appeal against decision suppressing the defendant’s occupation, the affected school, and evidence apart from in the summary of facts in relation to admitted firearms and other charges faced by a school student.  The District Court erred in not setting out the agreed summary of facts in the sentencing decision, and then in releasing the summary only seven months later and suppressing the facts until then.  But suppression of the information disclosed in the proceeding other than as set out in the sentencing decision and agreed summary was appropriate.  Media only free to publish what is disclosed in open court, and there was good reason to suppress the information not disclosed in open court, particularly when the Court had dismissed other charges that were not well-founded.  High Court altered the suppression orders to allow reporting that the defendant was a student of the school as this was relevant to sentencing.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 3009
Date of Judgment
13 November 2020
Summary
Successful judicial review of regulations and standards relating to pigs farrowing crates and mating stalls. The High Court found the regulations and minimum standards circumvent Parliament's intention in enacting the empowering legislation in the Animal Welfare Amendment Act (No 2) 2015, are contrary to the purposes of the Animal Welfare Act 1999, and are unlawful and invalid. The Court made declarations that the relevant regulations and minimum standards are unlawful and invalid and directed the Minister to reconsider.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2995
Date of Judgment
12 November 2020
Summary
Sentencing - motor manslaughter and driving with excess blood alcohol (3rd or subsequent) - sentence indication accepted.

HELD: sentence on manslaughter of 5 years, 2 months' imprisonment - sentence on blood alcohol offence of one year's imprisonment to be served concurrently - 4 years' disqualification from driving, to commence on release from imprisonment.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2992
Date of Judgment
12 November 2020
Summary
PROTEST TO JURISDICTION:
Decision on an application under r 5.49 of the High Court Rules to set aside an appearance under protest to jurisdiction. The parties are based in China. The plaintiff runs power stations. The defendant's company had contracts under which it sourced coal for power generation for the plaintiff. The plaintiff made an advance payment to the defendant's company. The defendant guaranteed repayment. The plaintiff also took security over the assets of another company in China. When the defendant's company did not repay, the plaintiff sued the defendant's company, t he defendant and the other company in the courts in China. The plaintiff was unsuccessful in enforcing the judgments in China. When it found that the defendant had assets in New Zealand, it brought this proceeding to enforce the Chinese judgment against the New Zealand assets. The defendant contests jurisdiction by alleging that China did not have "courts" as understood in New Zealand and under Chinese law the plaintiff had to exhaust its rights under its securities before it could enforce its judgment against him on his personal guarantee.

The appearance was set aside. It was held that the plaintiff had a good arguable case that the body that gave judgment against him was a court and there was nothing to suggest that there was anything improper in the way that the court had heard the case and given judgment against the defendant. As the Chinese court had enforced the judgment against the defendant in China without first requiring the plaintiff to enforce its mortgage security against the other company, the Chinese judgment was unconditional and could be enforced in New Zealand. The plaintiff can continue its claim in New Zealand.
Media Release
Media Release (PDF, 74 KB)
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2911
Date of Judgment
05 November 2020
Summary
Sentence of four years five months' imprisonment for the charge of manslaughter of defendant's baby.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2883
Date of Judgment
04 November 2020
Summary
Freezing orders are continued in proceedings mirroring proceedings in Singapore
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2876
Date of Judgment
03 November 2020
Summary
Successful judicial review of RITANZ membership decision declining insolvency practitioner with historic dishonesty convictions.

Held: Legal test looks to relevance of the offending.  To presume its relevance and weigh it against evidence of reform was erroneous.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2851
Date of Judgment
30 October 2020
Summary
Claim by the plaintiffs as insured against their insurer, the third defendant IAG, under both their policy and the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) for partially unscoped and defective earthquake repairs to their Christchurch home, carried out negligently by the first defendant builder (Farrells) (now in liquidation), under IAG's out of policy Managed Repair Programme, succeeds.  IAG "to pay" policy standard to meet the repair costs to a generally "when new" standard not met here.  Similar claims by the plaintiffs against IAG in negligence and estoppel fail.  Claims by the plaintiffs against the first defendant Farrells as builder for breach of the Building Contract, negligence and under the CGA succeed, but the builder is in liquidation.  Claim by the plaintiffs against the second defendant (Hawkins - now in liquidation), engaged by IAG in a project management-type role to monitor aspects of the building repairs, under the CGA also succeeds.  A similar claim against Hawkins in negligence, however, generally fails.  Claim by the plaintiffs against the fourth defendant (QBE) as insurer of Hawkins and its building related operations under a professional indemnity (PI) policy that existed pre-liquidation, succeeds under s 9 Law Reform Act 1936.  PI policy, however, has an agreed excess of $50,000.  Cross-claims by IAG against Hawkins and by Hawkins against IAG under mutual indemnity provisions in their 2012 RSMA contract (under the Managed Repair Programme) mean an overall result is reached as between these parties, even though they each have wide joint and several liability of $389,484 plus certain accommodation costs to the plaintiffs.  This result determines that Hawkins in its relationship with IAG, although not being responsible under the 2012 RSMA for certifying quality or workmanship on the part of the builder Farrells, is responsible to IAG but to a lesser extent, for certifying in error some milestone payments it wrongly said were due to the builder.  Thus, between IAG and QBE, IAG has a final liability for the major part of damages awarded to the plaintiffs, less the Hawkins responsibility amount met by QBE in terms of its indemnity liability under the PI policy and less a further PI policy excess of $50,000.  Result between IAG and QBE is that overall IAG is liable to the Sleights for $309,379.04, plus 79.64 per cent of certain accommodation costs to be incurred by the Sleights, and QBE is liable to meet $80,468.96, plus 20.36 per cent of the Sleights' accommodation costs.  Interest and costs reserved.

Declaration made that certain limitation and exclusion clauses in IAG and Hawkins' favour in the Building Contract with Farrells are enforceable and are not an unconscionable bargain.