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Is the Judiciary still New Zealand’s ‘least dangerous’ branch of government?

Summarised by Centrist

According to Dr Muriel Newman, the answer is no. “Our Supreme Court has become infected by the virus of activism,” she says. Cases in point are recent Court decisions over Marine and Coastal Area (MACA) Act claims and a climate change suit allowed to proceed against NZ’s largest companies.

Newman sounds the alarm over the lack of “guardrails” in the Senior Courts Act of 2016, which she says is leading to the erosion of parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law. She chides the coalition government for not moving fast enough to remedy the problem with MACA. 

“This matter is urgent because once the Courts have granted Māori title, fixing the law will be much more difficult,” she says. 

Newman also says the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of Mike Smith in his climate change dispute against major companies should instead be addressed by Parliament. 

She quotes Professor James Allen, who calls the Supreme Court an “imperial judiciary.” 

“What do I mean by ‘an imperial judiciary’? I refer to a country where the top judges – committees of unelected ex-lawyers if we want to deal in specifics – are giving themselves new-found power at the expense of the elected branches of government,” he says. 

Editor’s note: Read more about the MACA Act here and here and Māori rights activist Mike Smith’s claim against major NZ businesses, here

Read more over at NZCPR

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