Comparative law and justice/New Zealand

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Part of the Comparative law and justice Wikiversity Project

Basic Information

[edit | edit source]
New Zeland.
Map of New Zealand.

New Zealand is a fascinating region that is unique from the rest of the world. The country's history, society, and culture is worth the time to learn and discover. New Zealand, also known as The Land of the Long White Cloud, currently has a total population of 4,213,418[1]. The total population has a 0.99 males for every female; 20% are under the age of 14, while 12% are 65 years and older. New Zealand can be described as a urban center considering that 90% of the population lives in the cities.[2]

New Zealand, directly southeast of Australia, has a comparable size to Colorado. This country has a total landmass of 267,710 square kilometers, which includes the Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, Bounty Islands, Campbell Island, Chatham Islands, and Kermadec Islands. These islands in the South Pacific Ocean is part of the region known as Oceania.[3] New Zealand lies on the boundary between two great tectonic plates, the Indo-Australian and the Pacific, which is along the "ring of fire." Its geothermal activity, volcanoes, and erupting earthquakes forms a dominant mountainous landscape.[4]New Zealand's climate is temperate with sharp regional contrast.[5]

New Zealand is geographically divided into two islands; the North Island and the South Island. The North Island is distinctly different from the South Island due to its wildlife, and landscape. [6] The South Island is mountainous compared to the north.

The most common religions in New Zealand are Anglican, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians.[7] Ethic groups of New Zealand are diverse; 69% are European, 8% are Maori, 6% are Asian, and 4% are Pacific islanders. There is 8% of people who have a mix of these ethic groups. [8] New Zealanders speak of the official language of English, Maori, and Sign Language.[9]

Economic Development, Health, and Education

[edit | edit source]

New Zealand has a thriving, developed economy with a Gross Domestic Product of $116.7 billion. New Zealand also has a substantially high standard of living with a GDP per capita of $28,000, and with an average annual income between 30,000 to 55,000. New Zealand is highly reliant on free trade. New Zealand's exports account for 24% of its output, which means they are vulnerable to global economic crises. New Zealand is a gross exporter in dairy products, meat, wood and wood products, fish, machinery, and a gross importer in machinery and equipment, vehicles and aircraft, petroleum, electronics, textiles, plastics. Key industries in New Zealand include food processing, wood and paper products, textiles, machinery, transportation equipment, banking and insurance, tourism, mining. The New Zealand dollar is the currency. [10].

New Zealanders have a high level standard of live; it was ranked 20th on the 2008 Human Development Index. [11] This ranking reflects the low infant mortality rate; which is 4.92 per 1,000 live births. Males have a life expectancy of 78 years, while the females have a life expectancy of 82 years.

The literacy expectancy for both females and males are relatively high with a 99%. New Zealand is ranked 12th among 30 other nations. 76% of New Zealanders between the ages of 25 and 64 have reached a high school or college level education. [12]

Brief History

[edit | edit source]

New Zealand, the last major landmass to be discovered, was founded by Polynesian Maori in about A.D. 800. The Treaty of Waitangi was an agreement signed in 1840 between the British Crown and the Maori in which gave sovereignty to Queen Victoria, but allowed the Maori to keep their territorial rights. During that year, Britain established their first colony in New Zealand. This settlement led to a series of wars between 1843 and 1872 with the victorious win from the British crown. However, in 1907 New Zealand was able to gain independence. New Zealand was a key supporter for the United Kingdom militarily in both World Wars. In the 1980s, New Zealand's cooperation with various defense alliances deteriorated. Recently, the government of New Zealand is attempting to consign the distresses of the Maori.[13]


[edit | edit source]

The New Zealand legal system is based on common law. The government type is categorized as a parliamentary democracy. New Zealand's government is organized under a constitution, in which comprises a series of documents such as The Constitution Act 1986, and the certain acts of the UK and New Zealand Parliaments. Other crucial documents under this constitution are The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, Electoral Act 1993, and the Legislature Act 1908. These laws incorporate provisions on suffrage, the powers of Parliament, the formation of the government, and individual rights. The crucial purpose for these documents is to restrict the powers ceded to the monarch, and give political power to representatives elected by the people. The making of these laws reflect the struggling appeals of New Zealanders to acquire rights. New Zealand has a unicameral House of Representatives, also called Parliament(whose 69 members are elected by popular vote, and 51 proportional seats chosen from party lists and serve three-year terms) which has a total of 120 members. Parliament makes bills into new laws by considering formal stages for each type of bill, and if they pass through every stage they become Acts of Parliament. The executive branch consists of the chief of state(usually a king or queen), who is represented by the Governor General. The Governor General's job is to appoint other departments under the executive branch, such as the cabinet, the prime minister, and the deputy minister. There is no formal separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch since the prime ministers are given the power to make laws as well. The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and the High Court. The Governor General also appoints the judges.[14]


[edit | edit source]

Suffrage is universal. However, citizens must be over 18 years of age,as well as permanent resident who has lived in New Zealand for one year or more without leaving the country. For the past 13 years, New Zealand has used the mixed member proportional (MMP) voting system through the electoral strategy of first past the post, or through party lists. [15]. 45% of the elected members tend to belong to the National Party, 34% belong to the New Zealand Labor Party, and 7% belong to the Green Party. Elections are influenced by groups of people who prompt political pressures such as the Women's Electoral Lobby, civil rights groups, farmers groups, and Maori groups.

Judicial Review

[edit | edit source]

Unlike the United States, New Zealand does not have a single document establishing the basic framework of the government. Even though there is no sole documentation of New Zealand's supreme law, the constitutional court has the right to declare acts of the legislature illegal if they don't follow the rights given in a series of those documents.

Courts and Criminal Law

[edit | edit source]

New Zealand has an adversarial court system. Courts serve a variety of purposes, such as enforcing the criminal law, settle civil disputes among citizens, protecting the rights of the individual, ensuring that government agencies follow the law, and interpreting the law. The judiciary is independent of the Legislature, Parliament, and the Executive Branch for its sole purpose that the judge in position is subject only to law. Judges make their decisions for themselves and no one else. Essentially, judges are autonomous from government influence. Judges cannot be bias when making decisions, which needs to follow established legal principles. Statues and the common law are the two main sources or authorities of law. In conclusion, Parliament has the power to repeal, modify, or develop the common law by statute. If the judges' interpretations of the laws are vague and disagreeable, Parliament can also amend the legislation to make its interpretation crystal clear. The courts are open to the public, which includes news media and members of the public, and it creates a reality of confidence and trust in the justice system.

New Zealand's court system can be separated into three divisions: the higher courts, the district courts, and other courts such as family, environment, and employment courts. Under the District Courts Act 1947, the District Court are able to hear bother criminal and civil matters. These types of courts hear the most serious crimes such as rape, aggravated robbery, and sexual violation and the minor misdemeanors. There are exceptions such as murder, manslaughter, and Class A drug offenses cannot be heard by the District Court. The District Court, involving civil claims, can hear cases over money and property and can also involve commercial transactions.[16] Since the New Zealand court system is part of an adversarial form, there is no presence of presumption of guilt. It's the burden of the prosecution to determine if the accused is guilty. The accused has the right to remain silent throughout the trial proceedings and investigation.


[edit | edit source]

New Zealand's corporal punishment outweighs their use of capital punishment. The death penalty was removed for all offenses since year 1989 after the Private Member's Bill came into effect. This bill was passed, stating that treason was no longer punishable by death.[17] The last person to be executed in New Zealand was Walter Bolton, who was convicted of poisoning his wife Beatrice. He was hanged for her murder at Mount Eden prison. [18]. New Zealand's prisons have over 7,700 inmates, and has one of the highest imprisonment rates along with the United States. 80% of the inmates are serving their second prison sentencing, which reflects the use of incarceration as a solution to the crime problem is not effective. [19] Since there is a high rate of incarceration in New Zealand, means this type of punishment is used often with such crimes such as murder, rape, theft, etc. There is substantial evidence that New Zealand's schools use corporal punishment among their students. Green Party Sue Bradford attempted to take action to protect children who attend schools that are willing to impose corporal punishment on children.[20]

New Zealand also uses fines and compensation has a way to cut down costs of holding a trial and bringing a criminal to prison. In New Zealand, the issuing of tickets for minor offenses continues to become an important sanction, with the growth of motor vehicle ownership, increased road traffic regulations, and technology advancements.[21]. Judge determines the amount of fine or compensation with two judgements; the severity of offense and the offender's financial status. Once each one is separately decided on, then the judge can sentence offenders convicted of the same offence to the same economic burden even if they have very different financial resources.[22].

The purpose of punishment in New Zealand is restorative justice. Restorative justice is when the victim and the offender meet where they can discuss ways to help and give back the victim of the offense for what was taken away from them. This process is voluntary, and the offender must be able to admit their responsibility of the victim's suffering.[23]

[edit | edit source]

Barristers, solicitors, and judges are all considered lawyers. Practitioners of this law practice must obtain a current practicing certificate either as a barrister, a solicitors, or a barrister and a solicitor. A solicitor's duties revolve around commercial transactions and conveyancing. If such cases go to court, then the barrister is in charge. Their role is part of the criminal and civil litigation. Barrister sole refers to someone who takes up a solicitor's legal advice or instructions, which has become a popular profession. Barristers sole's income depends essentially on their prominence and reputation since their work is based upon the workings of other lawyers. Most of the people in the legal profession, are private practitioners or barrister soles.

There are multiple law schools in separate areas of New Zealand. The most popular ones are found in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, and Christchurch. [24]

The New Zealand Council of Legal Education, who is responsible for advancing young law students to a law career, requires all applicants to pass an examination on New Zealand law. The examination has six parts along with a written examination, and a comprehensive self-taught prescription. The examination covers sections of the legal system, contract law, criminal law, property law, torts, and equity and succession. [25]

The Chief Justice of New Zealand has four primary roles; judicial leader among other judges, administrator of government, communication with the executive branch and the judiciary, and representing the Judiciary. The chief justice has seniority over all other judges, and plays a key role with the executive branch and the judiciary. The governor general or the attorney general are the ones who select the Chief Justice.[26]

The jury plays a key role in determining the fate of the criminal. Once the evidence has been presented in the court, the judge sums up the facts of the case as well as explain relevant principles of law. Then, the jury will decide if the accused is guilty or not. During the trial you are usually allowed to take notes. Points of law and evidence can be repeated for clarification. A full consensus or agreement needs to be reached in order to make a final verdict. If no decision is not made, then the judge has the power to order a retrial. In consideration to the expenses of the trial, the judge asks the jury to reconsider their decisions once again. [27]

Law Enforcement

[edit | edit source]

New Zealand has a single centralized police structure. The law enforcement in New Zealand are divided into two Police Maritime Units: one in Auckland, and the other in Wellington. The Auckland Police Maritime Unit is part of the Auckland Metro Operations Group, and the Wellington Police Maritime Unit comprises of a Senior sergeant, sergeant, and ten constables(under the Operational Services Manager)[28] Law enforcement officers receive their professional training in effective exercise, and the lawful use of force and firearms. The trainee's psychological impacts of police actions are considered by law enforcement officials as well. Training of law enforcement also includes knowledge of issues of police ethics, issues of human rights, alternatives to the use of force and firearms, the mediation of conflicts, the understanding of crowd behavior, skills of persuasion, negotiation, and mediation. For all law enforcement officials, professional training lasts from thirty-one to fifty hours per year. There are specific measures learned to combat crimes such as organized crime, drug-related crime, money laundering, environmental crime, terrorism, and domestic violence. [29]

New Zealand Police officers don't usually carry firearms while on patrol, but rather use less harmful defenses such as pepper spray and batons.[30] In New Zealand there is a well established community-policing tradition(based on survey of 440 officers.) There is an asserted community-policing orientation in which police officers, not all, perceived the reality of work rather their duty to protect their citizens. [31]

The military forces are called the Armed Offenders Squad,which maintains a full-time counter-terrorist unit, the Special Tactics Group (STG). The STG is experienced in tactics vital in high-risk dangerous situations. The STG is the last resort to law enforcement. If New Zealand's internal resources are unable to face with the issue, such as a serious terrorist attack, the Police Incident Controller may call New Zealand's Defence Force and Special Forces.[32]

Crime Rates and Public Opinion

[edit | edit source]
Rates of Key Crimes in
Drug and Antisocial Offenses
  • Second most occurred crime; 41% of the recorded offenses are crimes such as family offenses, vagrancy, and sale of liquor,[33]
  • Dishonesty crimes occurs the most; 50% of all dishonesty offenses are theft[34]
  • In 2006, out of a total of 424,134 crimes that occur in New Zealand only 98 of those crimes are homicide, 2.4% of all crimes[35]
  • Out of the total crimes in 2006, a sum of 47,112 assaults occur; 11% of all crimes[36]
  • Fraud occurs 8% of the time[37]

Public opinion on crime is highly influenced by the media, which distorts the actual truth of the criminality in New Zealand. In a recent survey of the view of crime in New Zealand, more people overestimated the crimes rates than the actual crimes rates. People who exaggerated this information were women, Maori or Pacific people, be over 60, uneducated, poor, and not have been a victim of a crime. In reality, New Zealand has the fifth highest percentage of the population who are satisfied with their lives.[38] The occurrence of crime in New Zealand is relatively low considering its rank 52 in consideration to murder rates compared to other countries such as Netherlands, Germany, and Spain[39] New Zealanders believe in the purpose of sentencing should be most preferablely rehabilitation, deterrence and retribution.[40] Crime data in New Zealand come from a number of sources of Data, including the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime, the International Crime Victim Survey, and the United Nations Interregional Criminal Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). However, in these findings, there is a presence of problems that distort the factual statistics, such as, lack of trust in police officers, over-recording serious crimes and disregarding minor ones, inconsistent police reported processes, and the lack of consensus of the definition of crime among people. [41]


[edit | edit source]

Family Law

[edit | edit source]

The Family Court is an important justice system in New Zealand. The Court has the role to make judicial decisions for children not yet born through to older people who need care and protection. There is also a wide variety of cases that come before the Court. In New Zealand, there are approximately 60 Family Courts throughout, and they deal with cases under Acts such as the Adoption Act 1995, Care of Children Act 2004, Marriage Act 1995, and Protection of Personal and Property rights 1988. Under adoption, the Family Court deals with cases to adopt a child under the Adoption Act 1955. This act does not give any regulations to where an adoptive child or parent lives in another Hague Convention country. Under this family law, a couple who wants to adopt a child, or if an adopted child wants information about their adoption must contact the Child, Youth, and Family before bringing their case to court. The cases of marriage fall under the The Property (Relationships) Act of 1976. This Act gives legal regulations on how property should be separated when a marriage, civil union, or de facto relationship ends. These rules are based on general principles: men and women have equal status, and non-financial contributions should be highly valued as much as financial contributions. This act covers anyone is married or the ones who lives in a de facto relationship, union of two people over the age of 18 who live together, and same-sex couples as well. Since this act covers mostly everyone, even homosexuals, then anyone can marry. If any of these cases are brought to a court hearing, then the Judge has all the decision-making power.[42] If cases such as divorce are brought to court, the judge issues the Separation Order, in which you are not obligated to live with your spouse or civil union partner, but if you have children, you both still have legal responsibilities as parents. New Zealand's inheritance laws apply to everyone who owns property in New Zealand. Foreign property owners has the same property rights as citizens born in New Zealand. There is no defined reserved area of an estate must, by law, go to certain persons. (The only exception is the Property Relationships Act when divorce is the issue.) Inheritance is determined by title deeds, electronic land registration system that is quick and reliable since New Zealand law relies primarily at Title Deeds to determine ownership of property. [43]

Social Inequality

[edit | edit source]

There are major concerns about social inequality of the Maori, Pacific and other ethnic communities, Maori women, and racial hatred. New Zealand, women's average earnings and income remain significantly lower than men's, and the Maori and other ethnic groups also experience a drop in their wages and salaries compared to the European group.[44]

Ethnic group discrimination is currently present in New Zealand. In consideration to imprisonment rates, out of all of the prison inmates, half of them are Maori. Maori men are seven times more likely than other men to be serving a prison sentence, and Maori women 11% more likely than other women.[45] However, there are ways to seek help for people who are racially discriminated, such as, the Employment Relations Act 2000, reporting to the police, and printing media such as the New Zealand Press Council.[46]

Human Rights

[edit | edit source]

New Zealand offers opportunities for education, housing, health care, and other such necessities that provide an equality for each individual. There are two main legislative documents that protect human rights, which is the Human Rights Act 1993, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

The Human Rights Act serves a couple of purposes, such as appreciating human rights in the society, and to promote compatible relations between individuals and other such ethnic groups. The Human Rights Commission, under this act, resolves the disputes relating to discrimination. This is meant to make sure that each individual is treated fairly and equally.

Under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act provides individuals the right to freedom of expression, religious belief, and movement, and the right to be treated equally from such cases such as medical experimentation. New Zealand provides various government and non-government agencies that support information to protect human rights.[47]

Works Cited

[edit | edit source]
  1. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  2. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  3. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  4. "New Zealand Home Page." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  5. Private Islands Online. 2009. "New Zealand, Oceania." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  6. "New Zealand Home Page." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  7. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  8. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  9. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  10. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  11. Wikipedia. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  12. Statistics, New Zealand. "New Zealand in the OECD." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  13. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  14. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  15. Wikipedia. 2009. "New Zealand Politics." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  16. Courts of New Zealand. 2009. "The Judges of the Supreme Court." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  17. Amnesty International. "New Zealand's Stance on the Death Penalty." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  18. New Zealand History Online. 2007. "The Last Execution-Capital Punishment." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  19. Caritas. 2009. "Crime and Punishment." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  20. Green, Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand. 2007. "Actions Needed Against Schools Flouting Corporal Punishment Law." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  21. Ministry of Justice. 2009. "Conclusions." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  22. Ministry of Justice. 2009. "Conclusions." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  23. Ministry of Justice. 2009. "Restorative Justice in the Adult Criminal System." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  24. "New Zealand Law Schools: Comprehensive Directory of Law Schools in New Zealand in Alphabetical Order" Website accessed 9/04/2019,
  25. New Zealand Council of Legal Education. "The New Zealand Law and Practice Examination." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  26. Courts of New Zealand. "The Role of the Chief Justice." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  27. Grown Ups. "Jury Duty" Website accessed 12/01/09,
  28. New Zealand Police. "Wellington Police Maritime Unit." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  29. New Zealand. "Application of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  30. Wikipedia. 2009. "New Zealand Police." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  31. Emerald."New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  32. Wikipedia. 2009. "New Zealand Police." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  33. Statistics, New Zealand."New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  34. Statistics, New Zealand."New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  35. Sensible, Sentencing Trust. "New Zealand Crime Statistics." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  36. Sensible, Sentencing Trust. "New Zealand Crime Statistics." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  37. Statistics, New Zealand. "New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  38. The Social Report. 2004. "How Does New Zealand Compare to Other OECD Countries." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  39. Nation Master. 2009. "Crime Statistics." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  40. Toluna. 2009. "People Polls and Opinions." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  41. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2009. "Compiling and Comparing International Crime Statistics." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  42. Family Court of New Zealand. "Care of Children." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  43. Global Property Guide. "New Zealand: Inheritance." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  44. 1999."Income Distribution in New Zealand." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  45. Human Rights Commission. "Human Rights in New Zealand Today." Website accessed 12/01/09,
  46. Human Rights Commission. "Human Rights in New Zealand Today." Website accessed,
  47. Human Rights Commission. 2008. "Human Rights in New Zealand." Website accessed 12/1/2009,