What an interpreter does

Important changes: The Ministry of Justice has updated the Standard Terms and Conditions for Interpreter Services in Courts and Tribunals (Standard Terms).
Read a copy of the standard Terms

Most courts and tribunals in Aotearoa New Zealand conduct their hearings in the English language. For many participants, English is not their first language. They may struggle to understand and speak English, which could disadvantage them in the hearing process.

Interpreters help ensure all participants get full and fair access to justice throughout the hearing process.

You’ll need to tell the court at least 10 working days before you need to be there. This will give the court time to get an interpreter. Fill in this form and give it to the court: Request for an interpreter [PDF, 161 KB]

What an interpreter does

An interpreter interprets for an individual person participating in a hearing, for example:

  • a party to a case – this may be an applicant, plaintiff, defendant, respondent or appellant
  • a witness giving evidence in a case.

The interpreter’s work also helps the understanding of other people in a court or tribunal hearing, such as:

  • the presiding officer of the court or tribunal who will make the decision in a case – this may be a judge, chair or referee
  • lawyers or representatives appearing for the Crown or prosecuting authority or parties to a case
  • the jury, if the case is a jury trial
  • victims, for example in a criminal case
  • media reporting the hearing
  • the public, if it’s an open hearing.

An interpreter may need to attend a court or tribunal hearing in person or by teleconference.

Te Reo Māori & New Zealand Sign Language

You have the right to speak te reo Māori or use New Zealand Sign Language in court. It’s free if the court arranges an interpreter for you to do this.

Speak te reo Māori

You’ll need to fill in a form and give it to the court and the other people in your case at least 10 working days before you need to be at court. This gives the court time to get an interpreter.

Fill in this form: Notice of intention to speak Māori [PDF, 233 KB]

Use New Zealand Sign Language

You’ll need to tell the court at least 10 working days before you need to be there. This will give them time to get an interpreter. To arrange an interpreter, contact the court in person, by phone or by email.

Conduct expected from interpreters

Our Guidelines for interpreters set out the conduct we expect of all Ministry-appointed interpreters in a hearing. They also explain court protocol.

Interpreters must adhere to the expectations set out in these Guidelines or they could be subject to our Ministry’s complaints process, or in breach of the Ministry’s Standard Terms and Conditions for Interpreter Services in Court and Tribunals (Standard Terms), which apply to every booking.

Read the Ministry of Justice Guidelines for interpreters
Read more about the complaints process
Read our Ministry's Standard Terms

Become an interpreter for courts or tribunals

To be eligible to become an interpreter for the Ministry of Justice, you must have undertaken a criminal record check within the last six months and notified us of any convictions.

Request a copy of your criminal record

You can register your interest in becoming an interpreter by giving a copy of your Curriculum Vitae (CV) and your recent criminal record check to your nearest court.

Find your local court

To become an interpreter for the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, contact the Refugee Status Branch of Immigration New Zealand (MBIE)(external link).