Where is the most lawless place in New Zealand? If you define it as the place in New Zealand that is the furthest away from a courthouse then that should be able to be calculated. If you don’t define it that way then it’s the Oceanic Hostel on Anzac Avenue, Central Auckland.
A search of the Ministry of Justice website gives locations for the courthouses in New Zealand which is a start.
In this exercise I’m not including all territory in This Realm Of New Zealand. Penguins in the Ross Dependency face many challenges and access to justice numbers among them. I’m talking about the main islands and in-shore islands of New Zealand. The Chathams count as main islands, but since there is a courthouse on the Chathams that won’t be our winner.
Fellow Twitter user @JoshMarshallNZ provided a map into which he had plugged on courthouses. The map can be accessed here.
From this we can kind of eyeball about where it might be. Either half way up the West Coast or in the far southwest corner of the South Island. Lawless lands, both!
Now, some of you probably know how to use Google Maps to calculate this sort of thing, but I don’t. So I have done it by hand and ruler to figure out the approximate place, then looked on a map. Highly scientific! And while I can probably be cross-examined on the shortcomings of my methods I think it’s accurate enough in a brute force kind of way.
It’s not the middle of the West Coast because the South Island is too thin and the High and District Courts at Timaru remain close to the West Coast. It’s a point in the extreme south west of the South Island. Not exactly the equidistant point between the Queenstown District Court and the Invercargill High and District Courts as the shape of the coast hews north east.
Then it’s to Google to find out precisely where it should be. It’s an offshore island called Resolution Island or Tau Moana. That sounds vaguely law-related! It’s no Denning-land, but it’s close. So Resolution Island is the point in “mainland” New Zealand that is the furthest from a court. In particular, its western coast line is 165 kilometres from the Invercargill District Court give or take. That’s shorter than I thought it was going to be! In New Zealand you’re no more than 165 kilometres from a courthouse at all times.
The particular piece of Resolution Island that is furthest away is a place called the Five Fingers Peninsula. Wikipedia has more information, as does the Department of Conservation. And this Te Papa story has a photo of the Five Fingers themselves – rocky outcrops rising up from the sea at the southern tip of the peninsula.
Incidentally, this reminds me of the decision in Mountz v Craig  NZHC 1558, (2016) 23 PRNZ 244 in which Associate Judge Osborne (as he then was) had to decide whether the Invercargill or Dunedin High Court Registry was closer to Wanaka. Exactly the type of decision we need more of. Zaniness is a seldom-present quality in legal disputes.
(EDIT: And see also, thanks to a commenter, the case cited in Mountz: Nicholls v District Court at Masterton HC Masterton CP 1/96, 19 February 1996 where McGechan J had to determine whether the High Court at Wellington or Palmerston North was nearer to Masterton.)
Maybe mercator projections mean some of these distances are a little off? It’s hard to tell. But for now, and unless corrected, I claim that the Five Fingers Peninsula is the most lawless place in New Zealand. So, if you like, run as far away from justice as you can, and pull the middle Finger.
3 thoughts on “The most lawless place in New Zealand”
Don’t you need to apply the Mountz case to decide which place is the furthest from a court, rather than using a ruler, an approach made impermissible by both the HCR and DCR? Probably the same result, but it needs to be generated accurately! Apart from the parties, you and me, I wonder how many people are aware of the Mountz case. There is another one deciding whether Masterton is closer to Palmerston North or Wellington, BTW.
Good points all, Barry! But I can’t calculate practicable routes (indeed, I can barely calculate as-the-crow-flies distances)! Then wouldn’t it be the top of Mt Cook, or at the bottom of some Tasman District cave network? I like to think that the inquiry I carried out was about the aura of lawfulness projected by courthouses, rather than effective distances.
I have updated the post with the Masterton case. NZLII doesn’t have a copy of that to link to.
You’re slipping. This post doesn’t answer the only question that really matters, which is: could the defendant in Drain v Police (1994) 11 CRNZ 576, who briefly enjoyed a five-finger discount on a rental jetski in Te Anau, have made it all the way to Resolution Island by sunrise? Get your tidal charts out.