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The Chief Justice of New Zealand (Māori: Te Kaiwhakawā Tumuaki o Aotearoa) is the head of the New Zealand judiciary, and presides over the Supreme Court of New Zealand. The Chief Justice of New Zealand is also the Chief Justice of Tokelau.[2][3] Before the establishment of the Supreme Court in 2004 the Chief Justice was the presiding judge in the High Court of New Zealand, and was also ex officio a member of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand. The office is established by the Judicature Act 1908.[4]

Chief Justice of New Zealand
Kaiwhakawā Tumuaki o Aotearoa  (Māori)
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
Helen Winkelmann 2014 (cropped).jpg
Dame Helen Winkelmann

since 14 March 2019
StyleThe Right Honourable
NominatorPrime Minister of New Zealand
AppointerGovernor-General of New Zealand
Term lengthNo set term, though retirement is mandatory at age 70
Formation5 February 1841
First holderSir William Martin

The Chief Justice is first among equals among the judges of the Supreme Court. They also act in place of the Governor-General if one has not been appointed or if the appointee is unable to perform his or her duties. When acting in place of the Governor-General, the Chief Justice is known as the Administrator of the Government.[5]

The Chief Justice is appointed by the Governor-General, on the advice of the Prime Minister.[6] The current Chief Justice is Helen Winkelmann, who was appointed on 14 March 2019 to replace Dame Sian Elias, who had reached mandatory retirement.[7]

List of Chief JusticesEdit

From 1841 to 1979 the Chief Justice served with the old Supreme Court (now called High Court of New Zealand), which was a superior court with final appeals made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. From 1980 onwards the Chief Justice headed the current Supreme Court, which as acted as the highest court in New Zealand and final as court of last resort after 2004 replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

No. Image Chief Justice Assumed Office Left Office
1   Hon. Sir William Martin 5 February 1841 12 June 1857
2 Hon. Sir George Arney c. 1858 1875
3   Hon. Sir James Prendergast GCMG 1 April 1875 25 May 1899
4   Rt Hon. Sir Robert Stout GCMG 25 May 1899 31 January 1926
5   Hon. Sir Charles Skerrett KCMG KC 1 February 1926 13 February 1929
6   Rt Hon. Sir Michael Myers GCMG KC 3 May 1929 7 August 1946
7 Rt Hon. Sir Humphrey O'Leary KCMG KC 12 August 1946 16 October 1953
8   Rt Hon. Sir Harold Barrowclough KCMG CB DSO MC ED 17 November 1953 17 January 1966
9 Rt Hon. Sir Richard Wild GBE KCMG QC 18 January 1966 January 1978
10 Rt Hon. Sir Ronald Davison GBE CMG QC 3 February 1978 4 February 1989
11 Rt Hon. Sir Thomas Eichelbaum GBE QC 6 February 1989 16 May 1999
12   Rt Hon. Dame Sian Elias GNZM PC QC 17 May 1999 13 March 2019
13   Rt Hon. Dame Helen Winkelmann GNZM 14 March 2019 present


  1. ^ Judicial Salaries and Allowances Determination (No 2) 2015
  2. ^ "Tokelau Judicial Annual Report 2012 - 2013". Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Meeting the Chief Justice of Tokelau". Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Judicature Act 1908 No 89 (as at 01 March 2017), Public Act Contents". Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Role of the Chief Justice". Courts of New Zealand. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Appointing Judges: A Judicial Appointments Commission or New Zealand?". Ministry of Justice. September 2002. Retrieved 12 June 2008.
  7. ^

External linksEdit