Disputes Tribunals’ threshold to increase

  • Judith Collins

New proposals to increase the monetary threshold of Disputes Tribunals will allow more people to resolve common disagreements over issues such as goods, services and property damage more quickly and easily.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the proposals will allow Disputes Tribunals to deal with claims of $30,000 or less. Currently, individuals and businesses with civil claims can go to a Disputes Tribunal if the disputed amount is $15,000 or less; or up to $20,000 if all parties agree.

“The Disputes Tribunals provide a quick, simple and inexpensive way for individuals and businesses to resolve civil disputes involving relatively small amounts,” Ms Collins says.

“Raising the Tribunals’ monetary threshold will give more people the option of taking their claim to a Tribunal instead of to a District Court, which can be expensive and take a long time. It will also free up both District Court and legal aid resources for more serious cases.”

Currently the Tribunals deal with about 16,000 new cases each year. Disputes are dealt with, on average, three times faster than District Court cases.

Ms Collins says the proposals support the Government’s efforts to build a more customer-focused, efficient and accessible justice system.

Changes will also be made to increase the Tribunals’ transparency. These include:

  • requiring newly appointed referees to have appropriate qualifications or training such as legal, mediation or arbitration qualifications or training
  • requiring hearings to be open to the public and the media except when the referee is mediating an agreement or privacy is needed
  • requiring referees to give reasons for their decisions in writing
  • publishing decisions online unless there is good reason not to do so
  • allowing disputes to be reheard only once in most circumstances.

A bill to put in place the proposed changes will be introduced to Parliament next year. It will be referred to a Select Committee where anyone with an interest in the proposals will have an opportunity to have their say.