New Zealand Law Society - Some interesting New Zealand legislation

Some interesting New Zealand legislation

Raupo Houses Act 1842: To discourage the erection of houses made of raupo and other inflammable materials, an annual tax of £20 could be levied in a specified town on every building constructed wholly or in part of raupo, nikau, toetoe, wiwi, kakaho, straw, or thatch of any description. The legislation was applied first in Auckland and then Wellington after a bakery with a thatched roof caught fire. It was gradually extended to Dunedin and Christchurch and repealed in 1878.

Vaccination Act 1863: The parent of every child born in New Zealand after 1 March 1864 was required, within six calendar months of the birth, to have the child vaccinated against smallpox. Eight days after vaccination the parent was required to take the child to the vaccinating doctor or medical officer for inspection to see if had been successful. The vaccinator was then required to give the parent a certificate of successful vaccination. Another copy went to the registrar of births in every district, who was required to record it opposite the name of the child. Parents who did not have their child vaccinated had to pay a penalty of a sum “not exceeding forty shillings”. Vaccination was compulsory from 1864 until 1920 (except in 1872) but apparently most parents did not comply and less than 1% of babies were reported vaccinated in 1916.

Solicitors’ Bills of Costs Act 1902: Anyone receiving any bill of costs from a solicitor could, within 30 days of receipt, elect to refer it to a Supreme Court Registrar or Stipendiary Magistrate, “who may reduce such bill of costs to such amount as he may consider fair under the circumstances”. The Law Practitioners Act 1882, which still applied, required solicitors not to commence actions for their fees until one month after delivery of their bill of costs and had an involved process for taxation of the bill, but made no provision for contesting the amount charged. The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa is now responsible for investigating complaints about the amount of any bill of costs, under section 132 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006.

Punishment of High Treason Act 1870: “2. From and after the passing of this Act [Imperial Act 54 George III c146] shall be deemed not to extend to or be applicable in the administration of justice within the Colony of New Zealand.” The Imperial Act referred to required the sentence in all cases of high treason to be “that such person should be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution and be there hanged by the neck until such person should be dead and that afterwards the head should be severed from the body of such person and the body divided into four quarters” to be disposed of as the monarch sees fit.

The 1814 English statute was definitely the law in New Zealand by virtue of our English Laws Act 1858. The sentence has actually been imposed in this country, provoking the 1870 legislation. On 23 September 1869, after a jury had found Te Kooti associates Hetariki Te Oikau, Rewi Tamanui Totitoti and Matene Te Karo guilty of high treason, Justice Johnston unwillingly sentenced each to be hanged, drawn and quartered. None of the three was executed and their sentences were commuted to imprisonment.

On 30 June 1870 New Zealand’s Parliament changed the punishment for high treason from hanging, drawing and quartering to hanging. This remained the law until the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act 1989 came into force on 26 December 1989.

The Commencement of Acts Act 1862 Repeal Act 1863: Pretty boring, really, but a contender for the coolest name of any New Zealand statute. The 1862 Act, which amended the Interpretation Act 1858, provided that any Act which did not specify when it took effect should come into effect three calendar months after the Governor’s (now Royal) Assent. The 1863 repealing Act came into operation on the day of the Governor’s assent, 14 December 1863. Why did this happen? “The operation of The Commencement of Acts Act 1862 was found very inconvenient, and was repealed,” the Papers relative to the Acts of the Assembly session 1863 states tersely and unhelpfully.

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