1.6.3 How is case law established and applied?
Courts decide the law that applies to a specific case by interpreting statutes and applying precedents.
Our courts follow the doctrine of stare decisis, which means that a lower court is bound by a higher court where the facts/issues are materially the same.
Generally speaking, higher courts do not have direct oversight over the lower courts. They cannot act on their own initiative to overrule judgments of the lower courts. A party to the decision has to appeal it to a higher court. If a decision maker acts against precedent and the case is not appealed, the decision will stand and be binding on the parties to it.
Case law on licensing decisions in New Zealand is established by DLCs, ARLA and the courts. A decision of a DLC can be appealed to ARLA. Decisions of ARLA can be appealed to the High Court, and then, if leave is granted, to the Court of Appeal. ARLA issues practice notes and guides, which DLCs should be fully aware of and follow.
DLCs are not bound by their own previous decisions; however, these should inform decisions on current applications. Nor are individual DLCs bound by the decision of another DLC. However, as a matter of best practice, you should stay informed about relevant decisions from DLCs around the country.