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
[2021] NZHC 399
Date of Judgment
05 March 2021
Summary
Penalty hearing for breach of the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 (the Act). ANZ had over an extended period inadvertently issued duplicate credit card insurance (CCI) policies and maintenance cover for customers who did not meet age eligibility criteria . 0.3% of CCI policy holders affected. FMA & ANZ agreed that appropriate penalty was $280,000. Held: (1) Although there were significant public benefits associated with acceptance of recommended penalties the Court must still be satisfied the proposal is within an appropriate range. (2) The maximum penalty for the breaches should be assessed as $5M.  (3) Having regard to the criteria in s 49 of the Act and   he extent to which general deterrence was appropriate the proposed starting point in the vicinity of $400,000 was appropriate . (4) From his, a discount of 30% was appropriate to acknowledge ANZ's prompt and candid admission of the breaches (earlier self-report to the FMA). (5) In the result the recommended penalty of $280,000 was within range and approved.
Case number
[2021] NZHC 390
Date of Judgment
05 March 2021
Summary
Appeals by Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society Inc and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Maia against a decision of a Board of Inquiry permitting the proposed East West Link ("proposed EWL"), a motorway connecting State Highways 1 and 20 through Onehunga and Penrose along the northern shore of the Manukau Harbour. 

Appeals limited to questions of law. Principal appeal was brought by Forest and Bird with the support of Ngāti Whātua, that Board erred in law by finding for the purposes of s 104D(1)(b) of the Resource Management Act 1991 that the proposed EWL was not contrary to the objectives and policies of the Auckland Unitary Plan ("AUP"). Forest and Bird relied upon requirement in chapter D9 of the AUP which required more than minor adverse effects to be avoided, and the Board had confirmed that this was not possible in the event the proposed EWL proceeded. 

Held : Notwithstanding chapter D9 (and also chapters F2 and E15), chapter E26 specifically provided a framework for consideration of infrastructure which meant that Board correct in concluding the proposed EWL was not contrary to the objectives and policies of the AUP. 

On the second appeal, brought by Ngāti Whātua and Forest and Bird, at issue was whether the Board had had regard/particular regard Ito the NZCPS as required by ss 104 and 171 of the RMA. 

Held : Clear with reference to the decision that the Board had considered the NZCPS as it was required to do in terms of both ss 104 and 171 and no error of law. 

Both appeals dismissed
Case number
[2021] NZHC 307
Date of Judgment
26 February 2021
Summary
Judicial review application opposing the Chief Ombudsman's decision to refuse to grant FSCL consent to use the "Ombudsman" name. Held: The Chief Ombudsman predetermined his refusal of FSCL's application.  Although on its face it appeared a meticulous decision-making process was undertaken, the comments and actions of the Chief Ombudsman outside of the formal decision-making process indicated his mind was closed on the issue and not amenable to persuasion. Judicial review allowed and decision quashed and remitted for reconsideration with guidelines for reconsideration process. It is permissible under the Ombudsmen Act to delegate the decision to another Ombudsman, or to require another Ombudsman.
Case number
[2021] NZHC 291
Date of Judgment
26 February 2021
Summary
In exercising its supervisory jurisdiction over the Ngāti Rehua-Ngātiwai ki Aotea Trust in relation to a dispute over whakapapa, where there is no conflicting law, the Court is bound to make decisions consistent with tikanga Ngāti Rehua-Ngātiwai ki Aotea. But it is not the role of the Court, or even possible for the Court, to determine whakapapa. That is for Ngāti Rehua-Ngātiwai ki Aotea. An external arbitrator determining  whakapapa,  without a strong connection to Ngāti Rehua-Ngātiwai ki Aotea and a deep understanding of its tikanga, would be inconsistent with tikanga Ngāti Rehua-Ngātiwai ki Aotea. The parties here are bound not to pursue it for that reason. Doing so would also be inconsistent with the Court's previous orders which seek to uphold that tikanga. So continuing the external arbitration in relation to whakapapa would be an abuse of the process of the Court, meaning the Court has the jurisdiction to stay the arbitration. The dispute is not arbitrable under s 10 of the Arbitration Act 1996 for the same reason. Accordingly, the parties' agreement to refer issues of whakapapa to external arbitration is null and void.
Case name
Case number
[2021] NZHC 250
Date of Judgment
23 February 2021
Summary
Sentencing following an accepted sentencing indication. Aggravated burglary warranted a seven year starting point. Uplift of six months applies for offending while on bail. Defendant given the following discounts; 15 per cent discount for cultural and social factors, including addiction, 10 per cent for remorse, 10 per cent for rehabilitative prospects and 10 per cent for youth . Full 25 per cent guilty plea discount was available. On account of totality the sentence was then reduced by one year. End sentence of 15 months imprisonment, cumulative to the sentence currently being served.
Case name
Case number
[2021] NZHC 217
Date of Judgment
19 February 2021
Summary
High Court sentences offender to ten years imprisonment of charges of conspiring to supply pseudophrine, participating in an unlawful criminal group and money laundering.
Case name
Case number
[2021] NZHC 146
Date of Judgment
12 February 2021
Summary
Sentencing for the manslaughter of a 10-month-old child. Victim suffered fatal brain injury while in sole charge of defendant, most likely from shaking or being thrown against a hard surface. No external injuries. Starting point of eight years imprisonment adopted. Discounts were given for time spent on EM Bail and personal mitigating circumstances. End sentence of six years and five months imprisonment.
Case number
[2021] NZHC 140
Date of Judgment
11 February 2021
Summary
Two sentences given for each defendants' role in manslaughter and aggravated robbery charges. Mr Kingi received a sentence of four years two months' imprisonment. Mr Burns received a sentence of four years' imprisonment and Mr Hubbard received a sentence of three years 10 months' imprisonment. All three defendants received a sentence of three years' imprisonment for the charge of aggravated robbery to be served concurrently. No MPI imposed.
Case number
[2021] NZHC 68
Date of Judgment
10 February 2021
Summary
Review of the decision of the Whakatane District Council to grant consent, non-notified, to a service station located on a Māori roadway. Applications successful in part only:
1) Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa's claim to legitimate expectation; and,
2) unreasonableness because the Council gave only cursory attention to the potential for conflict between pedestrian use especially by resident children, and increased vehicle movement generated by the service station. TRONA's claim to affected person status not successful. While an iwi authority may qualify as an affected person, particularly in relation to matters of iwi level concern, the Court found localised traffic effects were not such a matter.
Case number
[2021] NZHC 65
Date of Judgment
03 February 2021
Summary
Manslaughter sentencing. Defendant accidentally shot and killed best friend. Starting point taken of four years, eight months imprisonment. Reduction made for early guilty plea, youth, remorse, personal circumstances and time spent on EM bail. Ultimate end sentence two years, eight months.
Case name
Case number
[2021] NZHC 64
Date of Judgment
03 February 2021
Summary
Discharge without conviction under ss 106 and 107 of the Sentencing Act on the charge of manslaughter of an 11 month old child.
Case number
[2021] NZHC 48
Date of Judgment
02 February 2021
Summary
Application for costs for judicial review proceedings challenging process adopted by Regional Council in dealing with application to permit use of water for bottling and sale overseas.
Whether Council entitled to higher award of costs for certain steps in the proceeding because of complexity of claim and because application did not abandon claims that were not advanced further at hearing?
-whether costs award for other parties should be discounted because Council had major role in opposing claim?
-whether costs payable by applicant should be discounted because claim included matters of public interest?
-whether payment of costs should be deferred because applicant appealing judgment?
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 1565
Date of Judgment
03 July 2020
Summary
Judgment originally delivered on 3 July 2020 and provided to the parties at that time, but suppressed for six months for the reasons set out in the judgment (and summarised below). Decision as to whether there was an ongoing need for redactions to a judgment in respect of the plaintiff, NZME's, unsuccessful application for an injunction against the defendant, Nine Entertainment. NZME submitted (in July 2020) that the judgment should now be released in unredacted form, due to changed circumstances (the sale of Stuff Limited to its CEO). Stuff (an interested third party) sought retention of the redactions for a further six to twelve months. The defendant, Nine Entertainment, supported Stuff's position. HELD: Applying Erceg v Erceg, release of the judgment in unredacted form at this time (3 July 2020) could result in serious adverse consequences to Stuff, its employees, and associated third parties. Weighing such harm against the principle of open justice, the appropriate course was to defer releasing an unredacted form of the judgment for a further six months.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1029
Date of Judgment
18 May 2020
Summary
On 18 May 2020 the High Court released a judgment declining an injunction application by NZME to, in effect, prevent Nine Entertainment Limited (the then owner of the Stuff group of media companies) from negotiating the sale of Stuff to  a third party (Stuffs CEO, Sinead Boucher). The judgment was released in redacted form for reasons of commercial sensitivity, in the context of ongoing commercial negotiations at the time. In a subsequent decision dated 3 July 2020 (being released contemporaneously with this judgment) the High Court ruled that the redactions were to continue in force for a further six months, for the reasons set out in that decision. The full 18 May 2020 judgment is now being released in unredacted form. In particular, parts of paragraphs [7], [8], [15], [18], [19],[31] and [32] were previously redacted. The redacted passages primarily related to:
*a resolution by the Board of Nine Entertainment to close Stuff if a sale could not be concluded by 31 May 2020; and
*the fact that NZME and Nine Entertainment had explored applying for Commerce Commission clearance for NZME's proposed acquisition of Stuff on a "failing firm" basis.