Where will the Supreme Court sit in Auckland?

The Supreme Court is coming to Auckland.  The leave decision in Taua v Tahi Enterprises Ltd [2021] NZSC 88 confirmed the Court will sit in Auckland in the week of 15 November 2021. At this stage it’s to hear the appeal in that case and also the appeal in Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Incorporated v New Zealand Transport Agency (see leave decision [2021] NZSC 52 which doesn’t mention sitting in Auckland, but the Court website has it set down for the week 16-18 November 2021).

Some people will tell you that the Supreme Court has never sat in Auckland.  I think they would be right but also technically wrong, because the Supreme Court used to sit in Auckland all the time until 31 March 1980 (after which it was renamed the High Court: Judicature Amendment Act 1979, s 2).  [Inevitably someone will tell me that the modern Supreme Court has in fact sat in Auckland before, but I am happy to be confidently wrong about this…]

Now the tyranny of distance won’t keep the Court safe from Peter Watts QC telling it how badly it messed up Debut Homes.  

Perhaps sitting in Auckland is a practical thing.  Perhaps it’s a Supreme Court gap year away from the oversight of Parliament.  Probably it is part of the “justice on tour” approach that has seen the Court of Appeal play all the big centres in the past couple of years: Dunedin, Christchurch, Tuatapere, Kaeo.  Whatever the reason, from pure self-interest, how great will it be to be able to pop in and watch a Supreme Court hearing?  Maybe I’ll see you there!

If you haven’t already, you might like to read Justice Matthew Palmer’s speech in article form as “Impressions of Life and Law on the High Court Bench” (2018) 49 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 297.  At pages 298-299 of the article he describes what he saw as some of the differences in Auckland and Wellington legal culture, and it’s one of the most interesting things I’ve read.  It’s stayed with me because as an Auckland emissary of a primarily Wellington-based organisation I really do think there are tangible and intangible differences in the legal culture between the two places (and no doubt other places as well).  Differences that I’ve never quite been able to describe beyond a laboured CSI and CSI: Miami analogy.  The article offers a really good take. 

Maybe that doesn’t make so much difference for the Supreme Court.  Since there’s only one, it draws all counsel.  The Court hears Auckland-centric cases, with Auckland based counsel all the time.  In the secret Koru Club for Supreme Court frequent fliers (the George Barton Lounge), the Jack Hodder QC you get in Auckland is going to be the same as the Jack Hodder QC you get in Wellington.  

But all of that is by the by.  The important question is where will the Court sit when it’s in Auckland?  Courtroom 1 at the High Court is the obvious choice, but that discloses insufficiently bold thinking.  Other options include:


Sky Tower


Sky Tower revolving restaurant

The highest court in the land where the wheels of justice turn slowly needs somewhere metaphorical to sit.




The Waiheke Ferry

Scenic. Free for several members of the court during off peak with their SuperGold Card.




The Stratosfear at Rainbow’s End

Replace counsel’s internal screaming with external screaming.  


Danny Doolans


Danny Doolan’s

Not really where anyone would choose to be, impossible-to-follow conversation, and always about five minutes from a fight breaking out.  Just right for a Supreme Court hearing.  




Stephen Mills QC’s yacht

Has the benefit of familiarity.  




The old Court of Appeal hearing centre

Now disused, though months of neglect are likely to have actually improved sitting conditions there. 


Not pictured

My place

Two bedroom apartment, central city.  Can use the spare bedroom as a retiring room, then walk out into the open-plan lounge/dining/kitchen which will serve as the courtroom.  We have four dining chairs and the CJ can use the computer chair.


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