This memorandum is not part of the determination, but is intended to indicate its general effect.
This determination, which is deemed to have come into force on 1 October 2007 and expires on 30 September 2008, sets the salaries and allowances for Judges of the High Court and District Court benches (including the salaries and allowances of a District Court Judge who concurrently holds the judicial office of chief coroner), the Employment Court, and the Maori Land Court. There are a range of salary increases provided for in this determination. These need to be seen in the context of 4 major considerations that the Remuneration Authority took into account in formulating this determination.
High Court Judges
The salaries of the High Court Judges have been increased by 9.4%. Although there may be direct appointments to both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal from time to time, appointments from the High Court bench to those courts will be the norm. For this reason, the High Court must attract and retain people whose skills and reputation are on a par with the best of New Zealand's legal profession. This requirement is reinforced by the fact that, as the High Court is a court of general jurisdiction, Judges of the High Court must have the ability to apply their skills to a wide range of civil and criminal matters.
Remuneration in the top ranks of the legal profession, from which High Court Judges will continue to be drawn, continues to move ahead of judicial remuneration. The State will never, nor should it, match these private sector incomes. However, given the considerations referred to, and if the quality and reputation of the High Court is to be maintained in the future, the Authority must take them into account in setting current remuneration.
Relativities between Judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and other High Court Judges
A salary increase of 9.4% for High Court Judges raised for the Authority the question whether the same movement should be applied to the salaries of Judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. In the Authority's view, for the reasons outlined above, it was more pressing to ensure that the salaries of High Court Judges did not fall even more rapidly behind top legal professional remuneration than to maintain percentage relativities between the salaries of Judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court. Therefore the salaries of Judges of the latter courts have been increased by just over 6%.
Relativities between Judges of the High Court and District Court
In the Judicial Salaries and Allowances Determination 2006, the Authority moved to close the gap between the salaries of District Court Judges and High Court Judges to 77.5%. The Authority took into account the recommendations of the 1978 Royal Commission on the Courts and the broadening jurisdiction of the District Court. These are still relevant considerations.
On the other hand, this year the Authority considered that recruitment concerns relating to the District Court, although important, were not as pressing as those for the High Court. Therefore the Authority decided to increase the salaries for District Court Judges by 6.1%, a significant improvement in itself and comparable to salary increases for Judges of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
In the Authority's view, this provides a reasonable balance between recognising the particular recruitment challenges for the High Court, and maintaining a fair relativity between the salaries of Judges of the District Court and the High Court as a whole—that is, including the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
Heads of Benches
It has become apparent to the Authority that, in some instances, the administrative responsibilities carried by Heads of Benches may not have been adequately recognised in their remuneration. In part, this financial recognition may have been considered constrained by the way in which
“judicial hierarchy”—the status, jurisdiction, and seniority of various courts—has been reflected in salary differentials. For example, this has effectively set a ceiling on the remuneration of the Chief District Court Judge in particular. This determination makes the following initial steps to address this situation:
the salary of the Chief High Court Judge has moved closer to that of Judges of the Court of Appeal:
the salary increase provided in this determination for Judges of the High Court has provided headroom for addressing the remuneration of the Chief District Court Judge without breaching the “judicial hierarchy”. The salary of the Chief District Court Judge has been set at the same rate as that of a High Court Judge (although the superannuation subsidy remains as for a District Court Judge):
the salary of the Principal Family Court Judge has been increased by 7.6%, slightly higher than the adjustments in the salaries of the heads of the Youth Court, Environment Court, and Maori Land Court (6.5% in each case):
the current chief coroner is a District Court Judge, and will receive the salary and principal allowance set out in this determination for District Court Judges. To recognise the administrative responsibilities of his Head of Bench role as chief coroner, the determination provides for the payment of an additional annual allowance of $10,000.
The Authority intends, before issuing its 2008 determination, to review more comprehensively the respective administrative responsibilities of all Heads of Benches, and the way these might be recognised in remuneration.