On 19 December 2012 the European Commission issued a press release indicating that they had issued a decision formally recognising the adequacy of personal data protection in New Zealand.

Section 11 of the Irish Data Protection Acts (and equivalent provisions in the other EU Member States) prohibits the transfer of personal data to any countries which do not have adequate data protection, unless the data exporter in question is in a position to rely on one of the exemptions set out in section 11. The impact of the Commission decision is that there is now no prohibition on any international data transfer to new Zealand.

The European Commission has expressed the view that this latest decision will boost trade between the two economies as businesses now have legal certainty with regard to data protection rules and the safeguarding of all transfers of EU citizens’ personal data outside of the EEA has been guaranteed. Trade in goods between New Zealand and the EU amounts to €6.7bn annually whilst trade in services amounts to €3.1bn annually.

New Zealand now joins the list of European Commission approved countries located outside of the European Economic Area which are regarded as having adequate levels of data protection. To date, the Commission has approved Andorra, Argentina, Canada (for certain sectors), the Faeroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Switzerland, Uruguay and the US (where the relevant company in the US has signed up to the “Safe Harbor” Principles.