Legislation to modernise courts and tribunals

  • Mark Mitchell

The ongoing modernisation of New Zealand’s justice system took another step forward today with the introduction into Parliament of two Bills aimed at enhancing the work of courts and tribunals.

The Courts Matters Bill and the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Bill are the latest in a programme of legislative reform to ensure the legal framework for our justice services enables courts and tribunals to move with the times, Associate Justice Minister Mark Mitchell says.

“New Zealand has a robust justice system which serves us well, but we can and should make the system easier to use and ensure that it keeps pace with people’s expectations,” Mr Mitchell says.

“Consistent, transparent and efficient processes in our courts and tribunals with financial thresholds and levels that reflect the needs of today are important considerations for people accessing justice services.  New Zealanders should also expect to feel safe while in a court.”

The new provisions in the Bills include:

  • increasing the financial threshold for the Disputes Tribunal from $15,000 to $30,000 so more disputes can be resolved by the tribunal, which is a cheaper and faster alternative to a court case
  • giving the Real Estate Disciplinary Tribunal power to take stronger action and award compensation of up to $100,000 for financial losses in more cases
  • streamlining processes for lower level offences punishable by community work by allowing defendants to enter a written guilty plea rather than making a physical appearance in court
  • extending the powers of Court Security Officers to deny entry, and to remove and detain troublemakers so that people are safer in court buildings
  • modernising and aligning the powers and procedures of 21 tribunals administered by the Ministry of Justice, making it easier for people to resolve issues.
  • “These Bills build on recent significant reforms to the justice system the Government has initiated including the Criminal Procedure Act, the Judicature Modernisation legislation, and changes to laws dealing with evidence and coroners.

“All these changes share a clear theme of upholding the law while making the system easier for people to understand and to use,” Mr Mitchell says.