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New Zealand’s continued failure to sign the Hague Service Convention

By Jack Wass

A recent High Court judgment demonstrates the real costs of New Zealand’s poor record on accession to international civil cooperation treaties. The Hague Service Convention was concluded in 1965 and enables the service of originating documents overseas for the purpose of civil proceedings. It has been signed by dozens of countries, and is particularly important when dealing with civil law countries who regard service as a sovereign act that cannot be effected by private parties, but requires official sanction.

In Huang v Huang [2021] NZHC 2902, Campbell J found that the Court did not have jurisdiction in a case involving property investments in Auckland because the proceedings had been served in China contrary to the law of that country. If New Zealand were a party to the Service Convention, that problem would not have arisen. Although it ultimately made no difference on the facts (because the judge found that New Zealand wouldn’t have been the appropriate forum for the trial), it illustrates the real practical consequences of New Zealand’s failure to accede to what should be an uncontroversial convention.

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