Defamation Laws In New Zealand

Under New Zealand, the following remedies may be exercised by the plaintiff  in an action for defamation:

a)     compensatory damages;

b)    an injunction to stop further publication;

c)     a correction or a retraction:

d)    in certain cases, a plaintiff might also be awarded punitive damages.

Under the Defamation Act of 1992, punitive damages may be recovered against the defendant only where the latter acted in flagrant disregard of the rights of the plaintiff (See Section 28 of the Defamation Act of 1992).

An individual does not have to prove that he/she suffered any specific damage or loss, as the law assumes that such individual suffered loss if such statement is defamatory.  However, under Section 6 of the Defamation Act, proceedings for defamation brought by a corporate body may prosper provided that such body corporate alleges and proves that the publication of the matter that is the subject of the proceedings —  (a) has caused pecuniary loss; or (b) is likely to cause pecuniary loss— to that body corporate.

The defendant may allege the following defenses in an action for defamation:

a)    Truth —  where defendant proves that the imputations contained in the subject matter of the proceedings were true, or not materially different from the truth; or where the proceedings are based on all matters contained in a publication, the defendant proves that the publication taken as a whole was substantially true or was in substance not materially different from the truth.

b)    Honest opinion – where the defendant must prove that the opinion expressed is the defendant’s genuine opinion.  This defense of honest opinion shall not necessarily fail if the defendant was motivated with malice.

c)    Absolute privilege – with respect to publications in relation to Parliamentary proceedings, judicial proceedings and other legal matters.