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Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 passed

22 September 2010

The Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (the Act), which implements the Agreement between the Government of New Zealand and the Government of Australia on Trans-Tasman Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement (the Agreement), passed its third reading on 24 August 2010 (in the course of which a previous edition of Connected Asia Pacific was cited in Parliament).  Australia passed its corresponding legislation in March 2010.  The new regime creates a legal framework for trans-Tasman cooperation relating to civil proceedings and will enable disputes to be resolved more efficiently and effectively.

The stated purpose of the Act is “to streamline the process for resolving civil proceedings with a trans-Tasman element in order to reduce costs and improve efficiency” as well as to minimise existing impediments to enforcing certain Australian judgments and regulatory sanctions, and to implement the Agreement (s 3).  The operative subparts of the Act are:

  • Part 2(1), which provides for direct service in Australia of initiating court documents for certain civil proceedings before New Zealand courts and tribunals in the same manner in which those documents would be served in New Zealand
  • Part 2(3), which provides that a party may apply for interim relief before a New Zealand court in support of civil proceedings in Australian courts.  The New Zealand court may grant interim relief if it considers it appropriate to do so and would have granted such relief in a similar proceeding commenced in the New Zealand courts
  • Part 2(4), which permits the use of technology to enable parties and their lawyers to appear remotely in proceedings in the other country (noting that remote evidence remains governed by Part 4(1) of the Evidence Act 2006, operating in conjunction with corresponding Australian legislation) 
  • Part 2(5), which expands the range of civil court judgments from one country that can be enforced in the other and provides a specific process for the registration of Australian judgments (see ss 56 and 57)
  • Part 2(6), which provides for registration under subpart 5 of trans-Tasman competition law judgments which do not impose a civil pecuniary penalty, and
  • Parts 2(7) and (8), which provide additional requirements for the registration under subpart 5 of Australian judgments which do impose civil pecuniary penalties or regulatory regime criminal fines, respectively.

The Act and the Agreement are elements of a wider trans-Tasman integration agenda.  As the New Zealand Supreme Court stated on 1 September 2010 in an important competition law decision, Commerce Commission v Telecom, in which Chapman Tripp successfully represented Telecom (at [31]):

The survey we have undertaken of the principal authorities demonstrates a factor common to the reasoning of both the Privy Council and the High Court of Australia.  It is important that the approach to the issue under consideration be broadly the same on both sides of the Tasman.  Under agreements between the two countries, competition law in New Zealand and Australia and associated enforcement provisions are being increasingly framed in a common way to address anticompetitive practices affecting trans-Tasman trade.