Further improvements to tribunals announced

  • Chester Borrows
Courts

Legislative changes aimed at further improving courts and tribunals have been unveiled by Courts Minister Chester Borrows today, as a part of the Government’s ongoing modernisation of the justice system.

The proposals aim to update a wide range of older legislation that has failed to keep pace with modern practice.

“There are aspects of the courts and tribunal system that fall short of public needs and expectations.  This package of reforms aims to address some of these issues, and will make the system easier to understand and more transparent,” Mr Borrows says.

“The changes will help ensure our tribunals continue to be the first option for timely, specialist decision-making and dispute resolution outside the court system.”

One of the main changes within the Courts and Tribunals Enhanced Services Legislation Bill is the establishment of a new ACC Appeal Tribunal which replaces two existing appeals bodies.

“It doesn’t make sense to have the same types of appeals heard by two separate bodies.  By combining them into one we are able to increase access to justice and make better use of judicial resources,” Mr Borrows says.

“This doesn’t change the law that will be applied in ACC appeals.  It doesn’t restrict appeal rights or downgrade the quality of the decision making claimants will receive.  What it does do is make the process simpler, easier and faster for those who have to go through it.

“It’s taking far too long for ACC cases to be dealt with by the District Court registry, cases before it currently averaging 695 days old.  No one wins with delays like this.

“The improved processes, including dedicated tribunal members and statutory timeframes, should significantly reduce the time it takes to deal with cases.  The end result we are aiming for is to be able to complete an ACC appeal in around 250 days.”

In addition to the changes to ACC tribunals, the legislation governing the courts and a further 21 tribunals will be amended to provide users with quicker decision-making, and processes which are fairer and clearer.  Changes include:

  • the requirement for tribunals to publish information on how and when court users can get information about the progress of their case
  • the requirement for tribunals to publish decisions online, unless there is good reason not to do so
  • new processes to improve the collection of court fines

“These changes, combined with other legislative changes such as the Judicature Modernisation Bill, speed up and modernise the justice system, and will help to deliver the timely justice services that New Zealanders want and deserve,” Mr Borrows says.

The Bill is expected to be introduced later this year.