NZ Supreme Court allows appeal in fire service levy case

This appeal raised two separate issues relating to the way the fire service levy is calculated under the Fire Services Act 1975. Here is the press release (judgment to follow). I wrote about the Court of Appeal decision here.

The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed an appeal from the Court of Appeal decision, which itself dismissed an appeal from the High Court. That is to say the Supreme Court has found that both the Court of Appeal and High Court did not reach the correct decision.

In business terms, the net effect of the Supreme Court’s decision is that more levy is payable in the particular instances reviewed by the Court.

More to follow on the substance of the arguments when the decision is made fully public.

In any case, the fact that so many judges can disagree (four altogether in the High Court and Court of Appeal on the one hand, and five in the Supreme Court on the other) underscores the need for law reform, and a general rethink about the way the fire service levy is collected. It is understood that this is of interest to the current New Zealand government. Other options include council rates and a levy on motor vehicles. A general review and consultation of all of the relevant options would be very welcome. The current model is not fit for purpose.

Steve Keall
Park Chambers
13 May 2015

Update/ post-script: here is the full decision.


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