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Supreme Court of New Zealand

The Supreme Court of New Zealand is the highest court of appeal in New Zealand, having formally come into existence at the beginning of 2004. Hearings, however, will not begin until July. It replaces the right of appeal to the Privy Council, based in London. It was created with the passing of the Supreme Court Act 2003, on 15 October 2003.

The Supreme Court will sit in Wellington. It will make use of the historic Wellington High Court building, located near Parliament, although the court will be housed in temporary facilities while this building is refurbished.

The inaugural judges will be:

The bench (with the exception of the Chief Justice, who had automatic appointment) were selected on seniority and merit. The four other judges were the most senior judges of the Court of Appeal.

The creation of the Supreme Court has been controversial. The Supreme Court Act was passed by a relatively small margin - the governing Labour and Progressive parties, along with the Greens, voted in favour, while the National, New Zealand First, ACT, and United Future parties voted against. Opposition parties unsuccessfully called for a national referendum on the matter.

One issue that was particularly contentious was the appointment of judges, with opposition parties claiming that the Attorney-General, Labour's Margaret Wilson, would make partisan choices. These concerns were lessened somewhat when Wilson decided to appoint judges based on seniority.