Parliament has passed a package of legislation to modernise New
Zealand's court system. The majority of the changes will come
into force on 1 March 2017.
The High Court
The Senior Courts Act 2016 replaces both the Judicature Act
1908, which currently governs the High Court and the Court of
Appeal, and the Supreme Court Act 2003. For the most part, the new
Act replicates the previous legislation while modernising the
language to make it easier to read. However, there are some
interesting changes, including:
judges of the High Court and the Court of Appeal may be
authorised to work part-time, although this does not extend to the
the High Court Rules, which have always been a schedule to the
Judicature Act, will be part of the Senior Courts Act but will be
published separately, as if they are a separate legislative
instrument, so that they are simpler to locate;
there are specific provisions for the restriction on commencing
or continuing proceedings for vexatious litigants, which was
previously dealt with solely through the inherent jurisdiction of
the court; and
a requirement for the Attorney-General to publish information
explaining the process for seeking expressions of interest for the
appointment of judges, and for recommending people for appointment,
to increase transparency in the process.
Judicial reviews in the High Court will now be covered by their
own legislation, the Judicial Review Procedure Act 2016. Again,
this new legislation aims to update the style and language of the
Judicature Amendment Act 1972, which previously governed judicial
reviews, but is not intended to make substantive changes.
The District Court
The District Court Act 2016 has some technical changes, but also
a substantive change that will be of significance to everyone.
The most important change to the District Court is that the
civil jurisdiction is increasing from proceedings where the amount
claimed does not exceed $200,000 to now have a limit of $350,000.
It is therefore likely that the number of civil proceedings in the
District Court will rise.
As something that will probably only be of interest to lawyers,
the composition of the District Court is changing. The District
Courts have previously been structured as a number of individual
courts around the country. They will now be reconstituted as a
single court with multiple offices, which matches the set-up of the
High Court. The District Court will have separate divisions for the
Family Court, Youth Court, and Disputes Tribunal. As in the High
Court, a judge in the District Court may be authorised to sit
Interest on judgments
The Interest on Money Claims Act 2016 creates a new Act dealing
with interest on judgments, rather than this information being
contained within the different pieces of legislation for the
Interest will be payable on all money claims, at a rate which
will fluctuate in accordance with the term deposit rate. This means
that the rate will no longer need to be adjusted through the
issuing of Orders in Council.
This Act requires the Ministry to establish a website with an
interest calculator, which is to be used by everyone for the
calculation of interest. The website calculator will be set up to
allow the payment of instalments to be taken into account.
Electronic courts and tribunals
The Electronic Courts and Tribunals Act 2016 paves the way for
documents to be filed in the courts electronically, rather than
This change is unlikely to happen immediately when the
legislation comes into force as the courts will need to establish
procedures for the electronic payment of fees, and amendments will
need to be made to various court rules and practice notes. The
Chief Archivist will also need to agree to the electronic retention
of documents that are a public record. Nevertheless, this is an
important step forward in the process.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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