Courts modernise more as new legislation comes into effect

Legislation to modernise New Zealand’s courts came into effect on 1 March 2017. The legislation updates many of the laws that underpin the court system, some of which were 100 years old.

The new legislation provides a platform for further modernising the courts, for example by paving the way for greater use of electronic technology, says Sheridan Smith, General Manager, Service Development, Operations and Service Delivery.

‘The results will make the justice system more people-centred and accessible by improving the transparency, flexibility and relevance of court processes for court users.’

Main changes from 1 March 2017 include:

  • Creating a single District Court of New Zealand from 58 individual courts. This doesn’t immediately change how the courts operate in practice but will support greater consistency in the future.
  • Allowing the District Court to hear higher value civil disputes by increasing the monetary threshold from $200,000 to $350,000.
  • The new minimum threshold to transfer civil proceedings to the High Court is $90,000, up from $50,000.
  • In the criminal jurisdiction, Registrars, Community Magistrates and Justices of the Peace will be able to amend or withdraw a wider range of charges, if the parties agree.
  • Criminal procedural matters will be heard via audiovisual link, rather than in person, when the defendant is in custody and where the technology is available.
  • New measures apply to meritless proceedings, with a new system of graduated civil restraint orders that give judges more options to limit or prevent people from initiating vexatious civil cases.

Court name updates

  • From 1 March 2017, all district courts combine to become the District Court of New Zealand – the largest single court in Australasia – hearing over 200,000 cases a year. For example, the Manukau District Court is now the District Court at Manukau.
  • The High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are now known collectively as the ‘senior courts’ (formerly ‘higher courts’), in line with the Senior Courts Act 2016.

More information

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