Speech at Tribunal Aotearoa launch


Kia ora, kia orana, talofa, malo e lelei, namaste, salaam, ni hao, mabuhay, and good evening

I would like to acknowledge:

  • Chief Justice the Right Honourable Helen Winkelmann,
  • All members of the judiciary present
  • Chairs of our many and varied tribunals and
  • Distinguished guests

Thank you, Andrew (Dallas) for that kind introduction.

I appreciate the opportunity to be here this evening in my role as Associate Justice Minister, at the official launch of Tribunals Aotearoa.

Tribunals are an absolutely crucial component of the justice system in New Zealand, offering a specialised, quick, and accessible means of dispute resolution.

For many people, contact with a tribunal represents a key personal interaction with the justice system, with hopefully an equitable solution at the end of it.

This might be as a scruffy student in a hearing over an equally scruffy flat at the Tenancy Tribunal, or indeed issues involving Human Rights, Immigration matters, ACC decisions, or disputes involving vehicles and real estate, to name just a few possibilities.

Our tribunals serve us well. You serve us well.

For, me perhaps speaking as a student of philosophy, I believe it’s important that all of people can achieve real equality in our diverse society.

A person who is truly equal is a person who is free to make choices, a person who can flourish and live to the best of their abilities. 

And in this context people in New Zealand are protected by our laws and institutions so they can operate freely in society.

We create freedom, not freedom from the law, but freedom through the law, and guaranteed by our institutions.

I am so glad that the need for this body, Tribunals Aotearoa, has been recognised, and not only that but actually implemented, given the busy schedules and heavy workloads of the key players involved.

I understand that planning for the establishment of Tribunals Aotearoa has been ongoing for several years, so it’s great to see it come to fruition this evening.

Despite the breadth of work undertaken in many different forms, all Tribunals are linked by a common thread of providing effective access to justice to people in New Zealand.

At this stage in the evening, I won’t attempt to recap the aims of this brand new organisation, Tribunals Aotearoa, in too much detail, except to say that I thoroughly endorse them.

In particular I endorse the intention to foster collegiality amongst Tribunal heads and members, and to provide a forum for collaborative discussion about the various Tribunals’ performance, operational practices, and other matters of mutual interest.

Greater collaboration across the many and varied Tribunals and bodies in New Zealand can only lead to better access to justice services for thousands of people each year.

Access to justice is a phrase that has many applications across the justice system – from physical, to societal access, to structural in terms of systems and policies.

The Government is committed to improving access to justice across a range of areas.

To achieve long term reform of the justice system and improved access to justice that lasts, we need systemic reform with coordinated changes, consistent with our values and aspirations, across the whole of the criminal justice system and connected to the social sector.

This will involve:

  • forming new and stronger partnerships with iwi/Māori and communities
  • improving services across the justice sector
  • providing a strategic pathway for future investment in the system, and
  • making changes to legislation where needed to strike a better balance between the functions of rehabilitation and punishment.

While the Tribunals system in New Zealand does a remarkable job for many people, establishing a common voice, common aims and practices through Tribunals Aotearoa will boost the standing of tribunals, and ultimately, boost access to justice for New Zealanders.

With no single Head of Bench with oversight or responsibility for all tribunals, the development of Tribunals Aotearoa is a welcome addition to the justice landscape.

I am also pleased to see the aim of increased collegiality between tribunals and tribunal leaders and members and coordinated training for tribunal members.

On behalf of the Justice Minister, the Honourable Kiri Allan, and Minister for Courts Rino Tirikatene once again, thank you.

I wish you all the very best.

Thank you.