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New Zealand Law

New Zealand Court Hierarchy 

Since 2004, the Supreme Court has been the highest court in New Zealand. Prior to 2004, the highest court was the Privy Council.

The remaining courts of general jurisdiction are (in order of seniority): the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the District Court. There are also a number of specialist courts (eg the Maori Land Court; the Environment Court) and administrative tribunals.

Finding Decisions from Multiple Courts on your Topic

Nothing up your Case - Litigation History and Citiing Cases

Finding Cases on Legislative Provisions

Finding words and phrases defined in a case

New Zealand Cases

Authorised Report Series - New Zealand Law Reports

New Zealand has only one authorised report series - the New Zealand Law Reports (NZLR).

Where a case is reported in the NZLR, the NZLR version of the judgment should be cited in preference to other versions.

Included in the NZLR are decisions of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, Court of Appeal and High Court. NZLR started in 1881 but complete sets have been deemed to start in the NZLRat 1861 and include a number of prior series. These are Macassey Reports (1861-1872), New Zealand Court of Appeal Cases (1867-1877), New Zealand Jurist (1873-1875), New Zealand Jurist New Series (1875-1878), Colonial Law Journal (1865-1875), and Ollivier, Bell and Fitzgeralds Reports (1878-1880). From 1932 onwards, Privy Council cases were absorbed into NZLR. For the previous period there is a separate volume of the New Zealand Privy Council Cases (1840 -1932).

The NZLR is available online and in print:


Unauthorised Report Series

The District Court Reports are available on Lexis + Australia from 1996 to current. These reports provide a large selection of important cases, civil and criminal, from throughout New Zealand.  Also included in the Reports are selected High Court decisions that are not reported in NZLR.

The New Zealand Family Law Reports (NZFLR) (vol 1, 1982 to current) are available on Lexis + Australia. Pdf replicas of the reports are available from 2002. The NZFLR also has a very handy alphabetical subject index. 

The  New Zealand Administrative Reports (NZAR) are available on Lexis + Australia from 1991 to current. 1991-1994 decisions provide headnotes only. Full text is available from 1995.


Unreported Decisions - freely available

Searching on NZLII is limited to full-text searching, which can be unwieldy when you are looking for cases in an area of law rather than specific cases.

Citing Unreported Decisions

When citing a case, the media neutral citation should always be given (if available). For guidance on when the various New Zealand courts and tribunals adopted neutral citations see rule 3.3.3(b) of the NZ Style Guide.

Only use official neutral citations provided on the original copy of the judgment. Some websites, such as NZLII, use a numbering system that looks like a neutral citation. Do not use these numbers as they are not universally associated with the judgment and are liable to cause confusion. If no media neutral citation is provided on the copy of the original judgment, it should be cited according to the citation rules of the relevant style guide - for example AGLC3 at 20.1.3:

  • example: DG v  Refugee Status Appeals Authority, CP213-00 (Unreported, High Court of New Zealand, Chisholm J, 5 Jun 2001)


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