Modern courts a step closer

  • Amy Adams
Justice Courts

A Bill modernising and consolidating New Zealand’s century-old courts legislation took a leap forward in Parliament today.

The Judicature Modernisation Bill passed its Committee of the Whole House stage in Parliament, with widespread support.

“This Bill updates the 108-year-old Judicature Act 1908 and associated legislation that underpins New Zealand courts,” says Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams.

“It will help bring our courts into the modern age, and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to providing modern and accessible public services for New Zealanders.

“At 1000 pages and six parts, it is unmistakably the biggest piece of legislation Parliament has ever considered in one go. Five parts will create new acts, and part six will amend 17 existing acts and make consequential changes to many others.”

“Among these changes is creating Australasia’s largest court. The single District Court of New Zealand will join together 58 separate district courts, and will hear more than 200,000 criminal, family and civil matters every year.”

The Bill will bring into a single statute the provisions governing matters like court procedure, judicial powers and appointments for the senior courts.

Key features of the Bill include:

  • Increasing the transparency of courts. For example, judges will be required to publish information about reserved judgments
  • Giving courts a greater range of powers to deal with meritless proceedings to prevent time-wasting
  • Creating a single District Court of New Zealand from 58 district courts
  • Increasing the monetary threshold of the District Court from $200,000 to $350,000, allowing it to hear higher value civil disputes. This is the first change in the limit since 1992
  • Allowing courts and tribunals to adopt modern practices, such as digital documents and electronic case files.

“People already deal with their banks, shops and GPs electronically. Greater use of technology will make courts more accessible and will allow them to decide cases more quickly and efficiently,” says Ms Adams.

“Our courts are recognised internationally as independent, legally robust and accessible. The Bill will make them more transparent and allow them to be modernised, while preserving their traditions and upholding the rule of law."