If you do significant business in Australia, you may be affected by the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010. After a three year delay, rules passed last week in Australia and this week in New Zealand bring into effect a new harmonised regime on 11 October 2013.

The regime will make it easier to sue, and also to be sued, where a dispute has trans-Tasman elements.

  • Proceedings will be able to be served on defendants in Australia as if they were resident in New Zealand, and vice versa, without seeking judicial leave or having to demonstrate a domestic connection.  
  • Defendants will be able to seek a stay of proceedings if they consider the case could be tried more appropriately in the other country, subject to a standardised test (e.g. considering where the relevant events took place or witnesses are located). A tactical home advantage can nonetheless be gained by filing first, putting the onus on the defendant to persuade the 'away' court to decline jurisdiction.  
  • Counsel may participate remotely in proceedings in the other country. If you are served with Australian proceedings in New Zealand, you can instruct a New Zealand lawyer to represent you (including by filing documents and appearing by video-link) to seek a stay.
  • Where parties have contractually agreed to have their disputes resolved by the courts of either New Zealand or Australia, that choice of court must be respected.
  • The courts of each country have express powers to grant certain interim measures (e.g. injunctions or freezing orders) in support of civil proceedings commenced in the other country.  
  • Most civil judgments from either country may be enforced in the other country by a simple registration procedure. Procedures are also specified for the trans-Tasman enforcement of competition law judgments.

Chapman Tripp's previous commentaries are available here and here .