The legal system is based on the English common law system. Many New Zealand statutes are based on English and/or Australian statutes.
The court system is hierarchical, with the courts of first instance being the District Court and the High Court. There are rights of appeal from the District Court to the High Court, from the High Court to the Court of Appeal, and from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is New Zealand’s final appeal court. There are also a number of specialist courts and tribunals, including the Environment Court, the Employment Court, and the Employment Relations Authority.
Arbitration is an increasingly common means of resolving disputes. Arbitration is governed by the Arbitration Act 1996 (based on the UNCITRAL Model Law) unless the parties agree otherwise. If parties have agreed to submit a dispute to arbitration, the court must uphold that agreement and stay any court proceedings that are within the scope of an arbitration agreement. The High Court will enforce an arbitral award as though it was a judgment of the Court.