Retirement of Right Hon Sir Ronald Davison, GBE, CMG

3 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2012 Last revised: 2 Nov 2015

See all articles by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 1989


This was originally presented as a speech by Rt Hon Geoffrey Palmer, Attorney-General at the final formal sitting by Sir Ronald Davison as Chief Justice of New Zealand in the High Court, Wellington. In the 11 years that his Honour has been the Chief Justice of New Zealand, he has assuredly made his mark on the High Court and the country’s judicial system. He was appointed before the Royal Commission on the Courts had been appointed. But it had been working on its task for a year and a half and was expected to produce recommendations for significant changes in Court structures. Sir Davison’s accession to office was in circumstances very like those of his leaving of it, thanks to a new report from the Law Commission expected to lead to further changes in the Courts. That said, there have been many changes in 11 years, not all of which Sir Ronald Davison would claim credit for, but he has been involved in them all, either advocating the change or agreeing with it and supporting its introduction. The result has been a judicial system which is alive to the needs of the day whilst maintaining a firm connection with those traditions of the past which make the Courts such an important part of our Constitution.

Sir Ronald’s own judicial work has been strongly centred in the field of administrative law and the control of the work of the Administrative Division of the High Court. He has been noted for the speed with which he rendered judgment, as well as for a lucidity of style which sets out relevant facts and law concisely before proceeding to a conclusion not only just but also sensible. In his dealings with the Government and its agencies, Sir Ronald has smoothed the way for a number of developments by declining to stand on the dignity of office. He has been ready to engage, with unfailing equanimity, in discussion at any time and with anybody if that would ensure progress on matters such as new accommodation.

Keywords: administrative law, commemoration, New Zealand courts

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, Sir Geoffrey, Retirement of Right Hon Sir Ronald Davison, GBE, CMG (1989). New Zealand Law Journal 89, 1989; Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper 87/2015. Available at SSRN:

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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