Eventual findings of the just-announced inquiry into intelligence services

We made mistakes, but those mistakes aren’t considered quite bad enough for anyone to have to resign or anything.

People like the killer are very hard to detect.

It’s even harder to detect them when you’re not looking for them.

We were mainly looking at other people.

People like people who had the same religion as the victims.

Or Keith Locke that one time.

While we’re here, though…  has there ever been an intelligence services review that hasn’t recommended expanded powers?

Thought not.

Thank you, that’s very generous.

The most lawless place in New Zealand

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.

I have a tipline! Just like WhaleOil!

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.

Technical know-how!

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.

Resolution Island
I am a master of maps!

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.

Five Fingers
Also on this map are the “Many Islands” which I’m pretty sure is cheating as far as naming things goes.

Incidentally, this reminds me of the decision in Mountz v Craig [2016] 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 MountzNicholls 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.

Template statement for law firms on innovation and legal tech

Version One

Strictly Obiter and Associates are excited to announce a new collaborative development with literally every legal technology start-up in the world.  This will position Strictly Obiter as a dynamic and future-focused incubator of agile and engaging workflow systems.

We are motivated to centre ourselves as a change-agent for innovation; seeking synergies as we strive to be a catalyst for groundbreaking, cloud-based paradigms that will produce operational efficiencies for our clients.

In addition, internal processes will see us partnering with clients to augment an experiential and design-driven, user-centred approach to our work.  We will streamline,  and be an agile new player in sectors such as fintech.

Machine-learning will position us as a market leader through a transformational approach to understanding our metrics.  We are pivot-ready.  This is an audaciously non-linear approach and the sense of intentionality that we bring to this disruption of our legacy systems is second to none.

We will cast off the chains of pen and paper and bind ourselves with blockchain.  Our peer-to-peer systems are peerless.  Blue-sky thinking has led us to the Cloud.  We are replacing our sense of discovery with a sense of e-discovery.  Every man must have a code, and ours is Code.  We are making a hard drive towards the future.

Aggregated experiential platforms will transform our networks.  Non-static will be our watchword as we seek efficiencies in an iterative way to overcome our clients’ lived problems.  Smart analytics and algorithms will see us metamorphose into an agile firm, supplemented by automated cybersecurity protocols.

The future is now, and Strictly Obiter and Associates is proud to lead the way.


Version Two

We started using Dropbox for our client documents.

Editorial: the Tax Working Group’s proposed changes are unworkable, by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel


It’s the day we all feared.  The Tax Working Group has released its proposed changes.  Well good for them.  None of it’s going to happen.

The Income Tax Act 2007 is virtually unreadable as it is.  We’re talking sub-sub paragraphs, and capital-lettered amendment sections.  And they want to what?  Add more?  Do you know how long the Income Tax Act 2007 currently is?  It’s over 3500 pages!  That’s just the Act!  That’s not any of the accompanying regulations or associated Acts.  It’s got a section number in it called “CW55BB” – that’s just the section number, without any subsections!

Right now the Income Tax Act 2007 is like a Jenga Tower where there aren’t any safe moves left.  There are entire Parts of that Act that we haven’t touched in years.  It’s too unsafe to send Parliamentary Counsel into them.  Tinkering with the wrong section risks collapsing the full weight of some Parts down onto those poor souls.  For the last five years we’ve just been banging a whole lot of new operative provisions into a schedule.  We’ve been hoping no one noticed and, frankly, it seemed like we were getting away with it.  Denzil Ward would be rolling in his grave.

Well, that won’t work any more; the Tax Working Group wants significant changes.  It’s not just extending the bright line test.  Given enough time and sufficient safety equipment we might – might – be able to manage changing references to a time period.  But expanding subject matter coverage when who knows where that subject matter features elsewhere in an Act that takes seven reams of paper to print?  You’re dreaming, mate.

Don’t get me wrong – we’re not afraid of doing our job.  And we’re good at it.  Being a Parliamentary Counsel isn’t all just doing a quick find-and-replace when a new government decides they don’t like the name “Vulnerable Children Act”.  I mean, you should see some of the 19th century legislation we have to keep on life support.  But the prospect of implementing any of these changes is worse than that time we had to write an Act declaring a living person was dead.

Right, time to see how I can make this the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee’s problem.

Editorial: The majesty of the Court of Appeal hearing centre, by the designer of the Court of Appeal hearing centre

As the designer of the Court of Appeal and High Court hearing centre in Auckland, I think I know a thing or two about what makes courtrooms truly special.   Without getting too E.P. Thompson about it, the majesty of the law is sustained by the formality of our courtrooms.  It’s therefore my pleasure and, I think, my duty, to share with you what makes the hearing centre such a fine site for the administration of justice.

First impressions count.  We don’t want people to think they’re in some intimidating process.  That’s why to get to the hearing centre you enter a non-descript Queen Street office building past a Unichem Pharmacy and a St Pierre’s Sushi.  We’re going for a Westfield justice vibe.  On Level Two is a LabTests collection centre.  As you ride the elevator up to the correct floor, look at the person next to you.  For all you know they’re there to drop off a stool sample.  That feeling you feel inside?  That’s the anticipation of justice.

Once you make it to Level 11 you’ve found us, as long as you turn in the right direction.  If you go the other way you’re at the ominous sounding “Learning Centre” for the Ministry of Business, Innovation, Employment and Re-Education Camps.

Now, this is where the impressive parts really start.  The lobby immediately invokes hushed tones, principally because there are large signs telling you to speak quietly.  We haven’t soundproofed the place and we don’t want the noise to carry into the courtrooms.  There is a tiny reception desk if you have some questions, and two client interview rooms that used to house circuit breakers and junction boxes.  Without exception every other door is marked with a sign saying “Private”.

Did you know this is where the Employment Court used to sit?  Don’t give too much consideration to the idea that this place wasn’t good enough for the Employment Court.  No, seriously, the Employment Court.

Of course the courtrooms themselves are, I think, very tidy.  No expense has been spared.  By which I mean we made sure to kill every possible expense.  A lot of people ask me, where is the bar in this courtroom?  But what is a bar really?  I think a lot of lawyers would tell you it’s nothing but an installation quote for $2500 plus GST that my manager didn’t approve.

But instead of focusing on what’s missing, focus on what we did do.  We banged up some wood panelling on a few of the walls, and we got a great deal on old sun-bleached curtains from a church hall in Dunsandel to throw up behind the judges.  There’s a crest of course.  A little big some might say; possibly a little big.  The overspend on the crest meant we couldn’t replace the blinds but they remain as a tasteful evocation of the commercial office-origins of the space.

The judges peer out from behind their double screens.  They’re on a raised dais of course, but not too raised.  We’re in an office building, so the ceilings are standard height.  If the judges get much higher they’re going to be hitting the ceiling tiles.  We get them to change some lightbulbs while they’re up there.  And naturally all of this can be neatly observed from the three rows of public gallery seating with economy-class leg room.

At the end of the day it’s important to remember that justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.  And there is no denying you can see justice being done.  If that is your benchmark of success, then the hearing centre, as a place where your eyes can visibly observe a hearing, must surely be seen as a runaway success.  Just put from your minds the symbolism that even though the Court of Appeal hearing centre sits 11 floors up, the Auckland High Court courthouse on the hill still manages to rise above it.