Civil law

The civil law area contains laws that govern legal rights and responsibilities in interactions between private individuals. It interacts with the courts and tribunals area to the extent that some of the systems use court processes to resolve disputes.

This area includes the following systems:


The privacy regulatory system determines how personal information is to be treated through its lifecycle from collection to destruction. It applies to both private and public agencies and ensures that these agencies treat personal information appropriately. It gives people ways of accessing and correcting their personal information, and a complaints process if they think their privacy has been breached.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is an independent agency that investigates complaints, issues codes of practice, and makes recommendations for better privacy practices. The Ministry of Justice monitors the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The privacy system also forms part of the broader human rights (domestic) regulatory system.

The Privacy Bill(external link) repeals and replaces the Privacy Act 1993. Its key purpose is to promote people's confidence that their personal information is secure and will be treated appropriately. Further information on the Ministry’s work on the Bill can be found at: 



Torts are common law actions where a person seeks compensation for harm caused by a wrongful act. Some aspects of the tort system have been enacted into legislation. This system sets out rules for apportioning liability. It deals with some specific aspects of the tort of negligence, and with defamation. 

Property (trusts)

Trusts law has developed through the common law and equity. The trusts system provides some administrative rules and oversight mechanisms for general private trusts and charitable trusts. Other aspects of the system relate to the operation of statutory trustees, which perform regulatory functions by carrying out trustee roles in certain circumstances.

Property (land)

This system governs title and tenure, sale and transfer of land and some aspects of land use in Aotearoa New Zealand. It promotes the rule of law by providing clear and consistent processes for the sale and transfer of land.

Property (succession)

The property, wills and succession system comprises a range of mechanisms to distribute people’s private property after they have died. Its goal is to ensure that families/whānau, spouses and dependents are adequately provided for. It also ensures that, as far as possible, the promises made by, and the wishes of, the deceased are upheld.

Private international law

Private international law is the set of domestic rules that each country uses to deal with transactions or disputes that have cross-border dimensions. The purpose of the private international law regulatory system is to establish clear rules and provide certainty to parties as to how cross-jurisdictional proceedings will be dealt with by New Zealand courts. The Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 establishes a scheme for the resolution of civil disputes and the reciprocal enforcement of civil judgements across New Zealand courts and the federal, state and territory courts of Australia.

Contract law

This system relates to the administration of contract law. It includes privity of contract (for example, the extent to which a person who is not a party to a contract can enforce that contract), contractual mistakes, contractual remedies (in particular, the law relating to damages for misrepresentation and cancellation), frustrated contracts, illegal contracts, and contracts entered into by minors.


This system deals with issues related to medical matters and the law, including abortion and assisted human reproduction.