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Enforcing foreign judgments

By Kiren Narayan - 15 Jul 2022

Despite the mass exodus from New Zealand, there are still people coming to New Zealand - and sometimes escaping judgments against them. Can leaving the country leave behind your obligations?

The short answer is no. There are different ways to enforce a foreign judgment in New Zealand. The first step is to get the judgment recognised in New Zealand. Once this is done, all the usual methods of enforcement are available.

Australian judgments

Judgments given in any Court of Australia (senior or inferior) can be registered under the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010. The application has to be made to the Court that has the power to give the relief in the judgment. That is, if the District Court does not have the power to give effect to the judgment, the registration must be in the High Court.

Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act 1934

The Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act 1934 (Act), allows for the registration of judgments from senior Courts in the United Kingdom.

Orders in Council made under the Act also allow for the registration of judgments by senior Courts (Courts with unlimited jurisdiction) in New Zealand. At this stage, there are Orders in Council to allow for the registration of judgments from France, Belgium, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Kiribati and Tuvalu), Basutoland (Lesotho), Bechuanaland (Botswana), Swaziland, Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria and the Cameroons, India, Hong Kong, Ceylon, Pakistan, Western Samoa and Tonga.

Once a judgment is registered, it has the same force and effect as a High Court judgment and carries interest as if it were a High Court judgment.

Memorial under the Senior Courts Act 2016

There is a similar process for judgments, decrees, rules or orders obtained in any Court of a commonwealth country. Any person can file in the High Court a memorial authenticated by the commonwealth Court of the judgment obtained in that commonwealth Court.

The High Court can then summon the person against whom the judgment was obtained to give them an opportunity to state why it shouldn't be executed. If the person does not appear or doesn't have a good reason for not executing the judgment, it becomes absolute.

Other judgments

This does not mean that judgments from other Courts cannot be enforced. Instead of the procedures set down in the above statutes, the foreign judgments will simply have to be through common law, generally by issuing summary judgment proceedings. Upon receiving judgment, the usual methods of enforcement in New Zealand are open to you.

If you are the creditor of a judgment obtained overseas and the debtor is in New Zealand, get in touch with our litigation team to enforce it.


Kiren Narayan


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