National Report

Summary of Contents


1.1. Form of government

Aotearoa[1] New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy where almost all laws are national (regional laws are generally confined to local infrastructure and planning). The 120-seat parliament is elected under a Mixed Member Proportional System, dominated by two parties left and right of centre, which rely on the support of smaller parties.

New Zealand’s government system is based on the doctrine of separation of powers. Each of the three branches of government (the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary), balances the other two branches.

The Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi (1840) (The Treaty of Waitangi) is an important constitutional document that established the legal and political relationship between the Crown/colonial government and the indigenous Māori population. Although the Treaty was “intended to create unity”, different understandings of its key words, and breaches of it, have caused conflict[2]. Following pressure from Māori Members of Parliament, the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 was passed, which gave the Treaty statutory recognition. From the mid 1980s acts of parliament began to include references to the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles, which allowed the courts to interpret the extent to which Treaty principles are raised in any case covered by the relevant legislation[3]. All Crown entities (including government departments, state-owned enterprises, public schools and hospitals) and local authorities are required to conduct business in a manner consistent with the Crown’s obligations as a Treaty partner. This means that the needs of Māori and the inequities faced by them must be taken into account. How well this is done in practice remains a subject of significant debate.

1.2. Demographics, ethnic groups, languages and religion.

The 2018 census records New Zealand population at 4,699,755. New Zealanders identify as European (70.2%); Māori (16.5%); Pacific (8.1%); Asian (15.1%); Middle Eastern, Latin American, African (1.5%); or other (1.2%). There are three official languages: English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language.

The 2018 census reported that almost half of the population (48.2%) had no religion. Of those that do have a religion, there is a diverse range with 157 different religious affiliations. The top five denominations are: Anglican (6.7%); Christian (no denomination specified, 6.6%); Roman Catholic (6.3%); Presbyterian (4.7%); and Catholicism (not further defined) (3.7%).

1.3. Social and economic environment[4]

The gross domestic product (GDP) for New Zealand over the last 10 years is reported in Chart 01.  The gross national income at purchasing power parity per capita is $33,970.[5]

Chart 01. New Zealand GDP from 2010 – 2018, reported in US Dollars and NZ Dollars

In New Zealand, inequality is generally measured by the P90/10 (or P80/20) ratio. This ratio shows the difference between high household incomes (those in the 90th percentile) and low household incomes (those in the 10th percentile); the higher the ratio, the greater the level of inequality.[6] In 2017, household incomes (before accounting for household costs) at the 90th percentile are around 4.06 times the level of incomes of households at the 10th percentile; this difference is 5.68 after accounting for housing costs[7]. The Gini coefficient (despite the methodological limitations) is also calculated: reporting a score of 34.4 (before accounting for household costs). The Gini coefficient is also reported using square root equivalence scale to allow for OECD comparisons[8]. The United Nations Development Programme inequality-adjusted index reported for New Zealand in 2017 was 0.846.

Between 2016 – 2018, a New Zealander’s life expectancy at birth was 80.2 years for males and 83.6 years for females[9]. In 2017, a New Zealander’s life expectancy at birth is 80.4 years for males, 83.7 years for females, and 82 years overall[10].

The United Nations Development Programme recently reported the expected years of schooling is 18.8 years and the mean years of schooling is 12.7 years[11]. In 2019, New Zealand’s Human Development Index was 0.921, ranking New Zealand 14th.[12]


3.1. Criminal procedure

3.1.1. Criminal investigations

The steps of investigations are set out in Chart 04 (below). The authority responsible for criminal investigations is the New Zealand Police. New Zealand is served by one national police force which has 12 districts. The Police have eight functions including law enforcement.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (the NZBORA) sets out a person’s basic rights and freedoms that must be acknowledged by any person or body carrying out a public function, power, or duty. Section 22 of the NZBORA states that “everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily arrested or detained”. Although the NZBORA is not an entrenched constitutional document, other Acts cannot act contrary to a person’s rights under it. This means that police cannot detain any person if: they do not have a legislative power; it is unreasonable or unnecessary; or detention has continued for an unnecessarily long time.

The police have various powers to arrest a person. Arrest warrants may be issued by a court (e.g. for breach of bail condition or for non-appearance at a court hearing) and the police can then execute that warrant and arrest the person. However, in New Zealand, most arrests happen without a warrant. A person can be arrested if they are found committing an act that is a punishable offence (Crimes Act 1961, s 315(2)(a); Summary Offences Act 1981, s 39(2)), or the police have “good cause to suspect” that a person committed a punishable offence (Crimes Act 1961, s 315(2)(b); Summary Offences Act 1981, s 39(1)). Police officers are required to consider a wide variety of criteria in determining whether or not to arrest without warrant. “Good cause” does not need to be evidence which would be legally admissible in court; just a basis for reasonable suspicion. The police may have gained good cause to suspect from a number of sources including their own observations, statements from witnesses, admissions from the offender, examination of the scene, or forensic evidence.

Once a person is arrested, they must be informed of their rights under s 23 of the NZBORA. There is no prescribed wording, but the person must be told the reason why they are being detained, of their right to remain silent, and of their right to consult and instruct a lawyer without delay. The arrested person must then be promptly charged and either brought before a court or released (being released includes: released on police bail under s 21 of the Bail Act 2000, released with a pre-charge warning, or released without charge). The use of the word ‘prompt’ acknowledges that some time will pass between charge and court appearance, but an officer cannot delay bringing an arrested person before a judge in order to facilitate a police investigation.[1] A lawful arrest can become an unlawful arbitrary detention because of the circumstances and length of detention.

A person who has committed a punishable act may alternatively be brought before the court by way of a summons (i.e. without loss of liberty through arrest). Under this method, a summons is served on the person, which explains the nature and particulars of the charge they face. The summons will also include the date which the person must appear in court, which must be no later than two months after the summons is served (Criminal Procedure Act 2011, ss 28-30).

Section 25 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 sets out the procedural time limits for investigating a crime by way of setting time limits for commencing prosecutions. A charging document, which initiates criminal proceedings in court and effectively concludes the investigation, must be filed within certain time periods for different types of offences. Offences in New Zealand are classified as Category One (lower-level offending) through to Category Four (serious offending). There is no time limit for filing a charging document alleging the commission of a Category Four offence, but there are limits for the other categories, which will depend on the maximum penalty. For example, where the maximum penalty is imprisonment for three years or less, the charging document must be filed within five years after the date on which the offence was committed. Time limits may also be set by the particular statutes which govern certain offences.

Chart 04. Main steps of the criminal investigation phase

3.1.2. Criminal prosecution proceedings

The Criminal Procedure Act 2011 governs the procedure for criminal cases, which begins with the filing of a charging document with the Court. Section 15 of the Act states that “any person may commence a [criminal] proceeding” by filing a charging document in the District Court. Private prosecutions are allowed in New Zealand, but are subject to independent judicial oversight (for example, see Turner v South Taranaki District Council [2015] NZHC 1869) and in practice are rarely brought. The majority of prosecutions are initiated by the Police Prosecution Service, who will file the charging document. The Police Prosecution Service conduct the proceedings for most Category 1-3 offences and traffic offences. Crown Solicitors, who are appointed by the Governor-General, assume responsibility for more serious offences (e.g. Category 4 offences).

Quasi-criminal/regulatory offences, for example breaches of workplace safety requirements or environmental legislation, or breaches of council bylaws, may be prosecuted by in-house prosecution teams of lawyers employed by the government agencies that administer the particular legislation. Crown Solicitor’s firms or private law firms may also prosecute these matters on instructions from the relevant agencies. For example, WorkSafe New Zealand is a branch of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which investigates and prosecutes breaches of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 2015. Prosecutions of offences under this Act are conducted by lawyers employed by WorkSafe. On occasion where the matter is particularly complex WorkSafe may instruct a lawyer in private practice, a barrister, or a crown solicitor to act.

Prosecutors have discretion to withdraw a charging document at any time up to a finding of guilt/entry of a guilty plea. The Police Adult Diversion Scheme applies to non-serious offences where the prosecutor considers that it would be appropriate to deal with the charges without going to court. The scheme provides scope for the prosecutor to punish the offender without the offender receiving a conviction. The offender must accept full responsibility for the offence, and agree to the terms of the diversion, e.g. payment of money to a charity or to the victim to recognise property damage or emotional harm, apology to victim, attending addiction treatment or other therapeutic programmes.

Other ways of informally resolving criminal cases include a formal warning system and plea negotiations[2]. There is pressure on prosecutors to reach plea bargains as a way to avoid trial and therefore save money and suggestions that defence lawyers are incentivised by low legal aid payments to promote guilty pleas[3].

Once the defendant has been charged, they appear in District Court for the first appearance hearing. At that hearing, bail will be considered under the Bail Act 2000. For any offences where the maximum punishment is less than three years imprisonment (with some exceptions), the defendant is bailable as of right. Sections 7 and 8 of the Bail Act 2000 provides that defendants who are not bailable as of right must be released on reasonable terms and conditions, unless the court is satisfied that there is just cause for continued detention (e.g. a risk that the defendant may fail to appear in court). The court will also consider any application for name suppression. The defendant will be given information about legal aid (see section 5 of this report) and can instruct counsel if they have not already done so.

At the first appearance, “initial disclosure” is provided to the defendant by the prosecutor. “Initial disclosure” is documents that, inter alia, fairly inform the defendant of the fact on which it is alleged that an offence has been committed and the facts alleged against the defendant (Criminal Disclosure Act 2008, s 12).

Defendants may be ready to enter a plea at their second appearance, depending on whether they have had sufficient opportunity to consider initial disclosure. For certain offences, the defendant will also have to elect whether to proceed to a judge-alone trial or a jury trial.

If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case proceeds to trial. The majority of criminal trials take place in the District Court. Serious offences are transferred to the High Court. The location of the hearing is usually determined by where the charge was filed, but a hearing may be transferred to another location if necessary.

The procedure and timelines that follow the second appearance hearing will depend on the following factors: the category of offence, the court that charge will be heard in, and whether the trial will be judge-alone or a jury trial. Chart 05 from the Ministry of Justice outlines this process.

3.1.3. Absentia

Defendants are generally entitled to be present for any hearing in court that is related to the charge (Criminal Procedure Act 2011, s 117(1)). This does not have to be physical presence. There is now a presumption towards audio-visual links for all criminal procedural matters when the defendant is in custody and audio-visual links can also be used during sentencing (see s 8 Court (Remote Participation) Act 2010). New Zealand has relatively few prisons spread across its two main islands and audio-visual court appearances reduces the need for prisoner transportation.

This right to be present for proceedings is not absolute. Section 117(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 allows for the defendant to be removed from the proceedings if they are disruptive and risk prejudicing themselves to the jury. If possible, the Judge will try to facilitate involvement in the proceedings using other methods (e.g. audio-visual links). In certain proceedings, a defendant can also ask for leave from the judge to be absent (see s 117(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011). When defendants are removed from the courtroom, the trial proceeds via the defendant’s legal counsel. In the very rare cases where section 117 applies to a self-represented defendant the trial carries on with amicus curiae appointed to assist the court to ensure the defendant receives a fair trial (see R v Tully, CRI-2014-009-008232, 24 February 2016 (HC)).

Chart 05. Main steps of criminal prosecution proceedings

Source: Ministry of Justice: <>

3.1.4. Consistency with the Rule of Law & Due Process

New Zealand highly values the rule of law and respects due process. The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index (2019) ranks New Zealand as number 8 (score of 0.82) out of 126 countries for adherence to the rule of law. When looking more specifically at the criminal justice system, New Zealand is ranked number 13 (score of 0.72) out of 126 countries.

New Zealand is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and has made a commitment to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and support the efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In the 2014 Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council, New Zealand was praised for its human rights record and has a reputation as a comparatively fair and equal society. New Zealand was criticised, however, for the over-representation of Māori and Pasifika in the criminal justice system. It was recommended that New Zealand establish national strategies that will address structural discrimination in the justice system. New Zealand has implemented a number of actions which are addressed in the Human Rights Council’s 2019 National Report[4]. The 2019 Report recognises that while some positive initiatives have been implemented, and advances made, work to address iniquities faced by Māori and Pasifika needs to be ongoing.

3.2. Civil Procedure

3.2.1. Jurisdiction

Ordinary civil cases in New Zealand are heard in either the High Court or the District Court at first instance. The High Court’s jurisdiction is largely conferred by statute, but it also has inherent common law jurisdiction (the only New Zealand court with inherent jurisdiction). In its civil jurisdiction, the District Court may hear claims up to a value of $300,000. Disputes of less than $30,000 may be heard in the Disputes Tribunal rather than the District Court. Pursuant to section 78 of the District Court Act 2016, the District Court does not have jurisdiction to hear disputes regarding the recovery of land (with some exceptions – see s 79 District Court Act 2016), proceedings relating to Crown prerogatives, or the interpretation or validity of wills. Applications for judicial review are limited to the High Court (see s 8 of the Judicial Review Procedure Act 2016).

Specialist jurisdictions – including the Family Court, the Environment Court, and the Employment Court – hear cases concerning specific legislation, under which those courts are constituted. For example, the Environment Court is constituted under the Resource Management Amendment Act 1996, and the Employment Court and its predecessors have their foundations in the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894 and are now governed by the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Appeals from decisions of the District Court are heard in the High Court, and then may be appealed further to the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. High Court appeals are heard by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. An appellant must apply for leave to appeal to an appeal court of second instance.

3.2.2. Procedural rules

The High Court’s practice and procedure is regulated by the High Court Rules 2016 (the High Court Rules), pursuant to s 146 of the Senior Courts Act 2016. The High Court Rules are subject to the Senior Courts Act 2016 and the Evidence Act 2006 (and other statutes and regulations where applicable). High Court Rule 1.2 states the Rules’ objective: “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of any proceeding or interlocutory application”. This, and the Court’s inherent jurisdiction, allows for flexibility of procedure where that is necessary. The District Court Rules 2014 (the District Court Rules) govern procedure for the District Court. They allow for the High Court Rules to be followed in circumstances where there is no other set procedure.

The High Court Rules and the District Court Rules, and those of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, are written by the Rules Committee, which is a statutory body established by s 51B of the Judicature Act 1908 (now repealed) and its replacement statute, the Senior Courts Act 2016 (see s 155 of that Act). The Rules Committee comprises the Chief Justice, the Chief High Court Judge and the Chief District Court Judge, the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, the Chief Executive of the Department for Courts, two High Court Judges, one District Court Judge, and two lawyers. The Committee relies heavily on input from judges, lawyers and other interested people. To discharge its rule-making functions, the Committee may also undertake consultation, publicise proposed and enacted rule changes and assist with educating about new rules.

3.2.3. Trial procedure

Civil matters are determined by the fact-finder applying the civil standard of proof where facts are proved on the balance of probabilities, i.e shown as more probable than not. The civil standard of proof is not defined in legislation. Z v Dental Complaints Assessment Committee [2008] NZSC 55 includes an analysis of the law regarding the civil standard of proof in New Zealand at [94] – [112] with the Supreme Court concluding: “there is accordingly a single civil standard, the balance of probabilities, which is applied flexibly according to the seriousness of matters to be proved and the consequences of proving them” (at [112]).

Civil trials in the High Court are heard before a judge alone unless they concern defamation, false imprisonment, or malicious prosecution, in which case any party to the proceeding may require it be tried by a High Court Judge with a jury (High Court Rule 16). All matters in the District Court other than those governed by the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 are heard before a Judge alone, who determines all questions of fact and law (District Court Act 2016, s 108).

The process of a civil trial is summarized in Chart 08 (below). Civil proceedings are commenced by filing a statement of claim in the relevant registry of the Court.  The proceedings are served on the defendant, accompanied by ‘initial disclosure’, which in the civil context are the key documents the plaintiff relies on to establish their claim (initial disclosure documents are not filed in the Court). Once the defendant has filed their statement of defence, the matter is set down for an initial case management conference before a judge. Court rules set out the issues to be agreed/ordered at the conference, and it is expected that the parties will have conferred and, where possible, agreed to these issues prior to the conference. Evidence is not heard at case management conferences. The conferences are often heard by way of teleconference which can result in time and cost savings, as lawyers do not have to travel to Court. Represented litigants are not required to attend case management conferences.

If the parties can agree on issues to be determined at a case management conference, the judge may take a relatively passive role confined to formalising orders required. If the parties cannot agree on issues, the judge will hear submissions from counsel and make appropriate orders. At any case management conference the judge may give directions to secure the “just, speedy and inexpensive determination of the proceedings” (High Court Rule 7.2(3)).

Once the parties have exchanged discovery documents and any interlocutory matters have been dealt with, the matter is allocated a hearing date. If further case management conferences are required, they may be held at any time either on the judge’s initiative or on the application of one or more parties (High Court Rule 7.2).

It is common practice for evidence in civil proceedings to be given by way of written brief, which are exchanged between the parties prior to the hearing. The witness then reads their brief in Court, and is cross-examined by the other party’s lawyer. Judges may question witnesses directly. A judge may adjourn a matter for further evidence to be filed, if that becomes necessary.

3.2.4. Shortened trial procedure

The rules of procedure allow for litigants to apply for summary judgment in cases where either the defendant has no defence, or the plaintiff’s cause of action cannot succeed. Summary judgment proceedings are heard on an interlocutory basis, with evidence given by affidavit. If the application for summary judgment is unsuccessful, then the matter may be set down on the ordinary track to proceed to a full trial. Summary judgment proceedings can be dealt with more efficiently (in terms of time and money) than other proceedings.

In the District Court, civil proceedings are allocated either a “short trial”, a “simplified trial” or a “full trial” when they are filed. These trial allocations may be changed at any point. District Court Rule 10.1(3) provides that the short trial is intended for claims where the court considers that 1 or more of the following apply:

(a) the case can come to a hearing quickly;

(b) the issues are relatively uncomplicated or a modest amount is at stake;

(c) the trial time is not likely to exceed a day.

The features of a short trial are summarised in Rule 10.4, presented in Chart 06.

Chart 06. District Court Rule 10.4: Features of short trial

Pursuant to District Court Rule 10.1(4), the simplified trial is intended for claims where the court considers that 1 or more of the following apply:

(a) the duration of the hearing is not likely to exceed 3 days;

(b) there is some complexity raised by the issues;

(c) the amount of money involved is more than modest;

(d) 1 or more expert witnesses will be giving evidence.

The features of a simplified trial are set out in Rule 10.7, presented in Chart 07.

Chart 07. District Court Rule 10.7: Features of simplified trial

Chart 08. Main steps of the first instance civil trial procedure

3.2.5. Unrepresented litigants

Litigants are entitled to appear in New Zealand’s courts without representation by a lawyer. The Ministry of Justice website provides some basic information for litigants in person[5]. Where unrepresented litigants appear in civil proceedings, judges may (or may not) offer them limited assistance by explaining procedural steps, or by ignoring defects in the form of documents. At all times, a judge must be impartial, so any assistance given to a litigant in person will be limited.

3.2.6. Management of urgent matters

If a matter requires urgent determination, because, for example, there is immediate risk of dissipation or destruction of property, or damage to a person’s interests (for example imminent publication of a defamatory statement or breach of copyright) the rules of procedure allow for interlocutory injunctions to be sought (see High Court Rules 7.53-7.58 and District Court Rules 7.45-7.50). An interlocutory injunction will restrain a party from acting in a particular way (or compel a party to do something) until such time as the plaintiff’s claim can be heard and determined at a full trial. Applications for interlocutory injunctions can be made without notice (ex parte) pursuant to High Court Rule 7.23 and District Court Rule 7.16 if the applicant can show that proceeding on notice will, inter alia, cause undue delay or prejudice. High Court Rule 7.54 and District Court Rule 7.46 require an applicant for an interlocutory injunction to file a signed undertaking that the applicant will comply with any order for the payment of damages to compensate the other party for any damage sustained through the injunction.

If parties consider a civil matter requires swift disposition but the test discussed above cannot be met, they can raise this at the first case management conference. Requests to have a matter heard quickly can sometimes be accommodated if the parties are able to travel to a different Court location, or can otherwise be flexible.

Other courts may also have provisions in their relevant legislation that allow for urgent determinations. One such court where urgent matters are frequently heard is the Family Court, where orders (usually temporary or interim) can be made on a without notice basis; that is, without the other party being heard. These urgent applications should only be made in emergency situations where the applicant can show that the time needed to let the other party respond could lead to serious injury, undue hardship, a risk to personal safety (of the applicant or their child), or child being removed from New Zealand.

3.2.7. Encouraging settlement during formal proceedings

In the District Court, unless a short trial is to be held, cases must be referred to a Judicial Settlement Conference (JSC) prior to being set down for trial. The purpose of a JSC is to give the parties to the proceeding an opportunity to negotiate a settlement of the claim or any issue. A JSC is convened by a District Court Judge, and its proceedings are confidential to the parties and their legal advisers. A Judge who convenes a JSC may assist the parties in their negotiations, but that Judge must not preside at the trial (if any eventuates) unless all parties taking part in the conference consent, or the only matter for resolution at the hearing is a question of law. At least ten working days prior to the JSC, the parties must file and serve on the other parties copies of their “will say” statements which set out the evidence the parties rely on and a memorandum identifying the issues and any settlement negotiations. These documents are not admissible at any trial of the proceeding. If the Judge assisting the parties at a JSC is satisfied that the parties are unable to settle the claim or issue, the Judge must, as soon as practicable, indicate that he or she has formed that view, and adjourn the proceeding to a second case management conference.

In the High Court, JSCs are not compulsory. There is informal encouragement to settle through the use of negotiation or mediation and judge-led settlement is available in limited cases[6]. At the first case management conference the question of whether a matter is suited to private mediation will also have been discussed. High Court Rule 7.79(1) provides that a Judge may:

… at any time before the hearing of a proceeding, convene a conference of the parties in chambers for the purpose of negotiating for a settlement of the proceeding or of any issue, and may assist in those negotiations.

New Zealand also has examples of innovative procedure to both maintain a separate judicial process while facilitating settlement. This can be seen in the process developed in response to the Canterbury earthquake sequence (2010-2011), which caused significant property damage giving rise to many claims (the earthquakes also caused loss of life but claims for personal injury are barred by statute, see 3.4 below). A procedure was introduced streamline the judicial processing of these cases while creating transparency about the claims in order to facilitate settlement[7].

We are not aware of any empirical research into the fairness (or otherwise) of JSCs or other incentives to settle within the court process. JSCs are private to the parties pursuant to the provisions of the court rules. Anecdotal evidence suggests that settling matters prior to trial results in reduced costs for the parties but that power imbalances may also create unfair settlements in some circumstances.

3.2.8. Consistency with the Rule of Law

New Zealand highly values the rule of law and respects due process. The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index (2019) ranks New Zealand as number 8 (score of 0.82) out of 126 countries for adherence to the rule of law, and 11 out of 126 for civil justice.

The index scores New Zealand at 0.75 for “no unreasonable delay”.  Delay in the civil high court system has been the subject of research conducted by the University of Otago Legal Issues Centre[8]. This was the first major New Zealand study to investigate the pace of High Court civil cases and to examine if and when delays might occur. The study report concluded that while delays are a key obstacle in accessing justice, there are varied reasons as to why delays occur, and how they impact on participants in the justice system – not all delays are negative. The study also concluded that further data collection and analysis is required before reforms addressing delay can be implemented.

3.3. Alternative Dispute Resolution

New Zealand’s use of ADR is part of the wider trend in common law countries, with New Zealand following closely the developments in the United States and Australia from the 1980s onwards. The impetus for ADR was driven by the same factors in other common law countries: “Court overload, high litigation costs, social changes and subsequent challenges to traditional approaches of resolving disputes led to calls for mediation, conciliation and negotiation to supplement, and even replace, adversarial litigation”[9]. Inclusion of conciliation and mediation was mostly state-led from the 1980s with the inclusion of over 30 statutory references through the 1980s and 1990s[10]. There are now references to ADR processes across a wide range of New Zealand legislation. As commentators summarised:

The growing awareness of ADR is apparent from New Zealand’s legislative history. … By way of some examples, the Local Government Act 2002 at s 16 sets out a process for mediation if significant new activities are proposed by the regional council and agreement is not reached with the affected territorial authorities. The Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act 2002 sets out a prescriptive process for the mediation and adjudication of claims (at ss 13 to 55). The Legislative Advisory Committee lists over 40 other examples in a range of areas including Maori fisheries, environmental law, Maori land law, family law and many others.[11]

Given the large number of government ADR schemes, there is now a Government Centre for Dispute Resolution which is tasked with developing best practice dispute resolution guidance, as well as advising on design, development or improvement of schemes.

Mediation in employment law is “quasi-mandatory” as both the Employment Relations Authority (the body that hears first instance employment disputes) and the Employment Court have a duty to direct parties to mediation (Employment Relations Act, ss 159 and 188)[12].

Parents and guardians who take disputes about children to the Family Court are expected to have attempted to resolve the dispute themselves with the help of the Family Dispute Resolution mediation process (FDR), with a hearing in front of a judge being seen as a resort only where alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is impossible (Care of Children Act 2001 s46E, Family Dispute Resolution Act 2013). This mediation service is provided by registered, private parties. If a person applies to the court regarding a dispute about children, they must usually also have attended a “Parenting Through Separation” course. The course comprises four one-hour long sessions and is provided for free by the Family Court. Until March 2014, the Family Court provided free counselling and mediation services in all cases. Those services were replaced by the FDR process, which is offered free to those whose income is below a certain threshold.

There has been some criticism of the FDR process. An independent panel was appointed to examine the 2014 family justice reforms, and the final report was published in May 2019[13]. In relation to FDR the panel found that while around 84% of completed mediations since 2014 had resolved some or all issues 40% of people had refused to engage with FDR “because they simply did not want to do FDR”[14].

New Zealand has also established specific ADR schemes for particular purposes. For example, in an effort to resolve outstanding claims arising from the Canterbury earthquake sequence, the government established the Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service. It provides “free facilitation and determination services and access to engineering, legal and well-being support” tailored to individual homeowner needs[15]. Homeowners can still access the courts but this service is established to settle claims without the need to resort to the courts.

Outside these contexts, ADR processes are often triggered by the inclusion of dispute resolution provisions in contracts. These often appear as tiered processes, for example direct negotiation followed by mediation followed by arbitration. Mediators and arbitrators appointed as a result of these contractual terms may be via government schemes or by private arrangement. As most ADR schemes are mediation based, there are no appeal rights (given decisions are by agreement, not adjudication).

Commercial entities contract with government agencies to provide ADR services. One example is FairWay Dispute Resolution Limited (FairWay). FairWay was initially conceived as an arm of the Accident Compensation Corporation (see section 3.4 below) before becoming an independently owned company that provides dispute resolution services across a wide range of public and private entities. FairWay’s website states that it employs over 100 staff and contracts with over 110 specialist reviewers and dispute resolution practitioners, and handles over 16,000 cases per year[16].

3.4. Simplification of law and by-passing legal processes

A major feature of the New Zealand legal system is its no-fault accident compensation scheme. Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides insurance for all personal injury and came into being in 1972. Taxpayers, employers, self-employed people and motor vehicle owners to pay a levy to ACC to fund the scheme[17]. Court actions cannot be brought to recover for loss for personal injury. This removes a large portion of cases that might otherwise be litigated in New Zealand courts or subject to alternative dispute resolution. ACC is not without its critics but it is thought to be cheaper and more efficient than litigating for personal injury: “An independent evaluation by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2007 found that the ACC scheme achieved a level of benefits and performance comparable with Australia and other countries, at a lower cost”[18].

New Zealand also has a no-fault divorce regime. The Family Proceedings Act 1980 (which came into force in 1981) removed the requirement to prove fault before a dissolution order was issued. The requirement for a hearing in front of a judge to gain a dissolution order was removed in 1990.

Claims under $30,000 are heard in the Disputes Tribunal which has an informal procedure (Disputes Tribunal Act 1988). Tribunal referees are not required to be legally qualified (although many are) and in the first instance try to bring the parties to a mutually agreed decision (Disputes Tribunal Act, s 18). If the parties cannot agree on an outcome, the referee will make a decision. The dispute is to be determined according to the substantial merits and justice of the case and in doing so the Tribunal is to have regard to the law, but is not bound to give effect to strict legal rights or obligations or to legal forms or technicalities (Disputes Tribunal Act, s 18).

There are very limited appeal rights from decisions of the Disputes Tribunal. There is a review process for ACC decisions but this has been the subject of criticism[19].


4.1. Statutory commitment to access to justice, equal access to court and fair trial

New Zealand does not have a written constitution that expressly provides for equal access to justice, but this right is protected by various provisions. For example, ss 25 and 27 of the NZBORA affirm that every person has the right to minimum standards of criminal procedure, which includes the right a fair hearing without delay, as well the right to natural justice, judicial review, and to take or defence civil proceedings involving the Crown. Similarly, the purpose of the courts’ procedural rules is to facilitate “the just, speedy, and inexpensive dispatch of the business” of the court as well as “the administration of justice” (Senior Courts Act 2016, s 145).

New Zealand is also a signatory to a number of international treaties that protect the right to justice and fair trial; including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

4.2. Political commitment to access to justice

There is ostensibly political will by the current Government (who has governed since 26 October 2017) to improve access to justice. For example, the Attorney-General, the Hon David Parker (who is both a political and legal officer), recently commented on his concerns in the District Court:

The civil jurisdiction of the District Court has decreased to, largely, default and summary judgments. The reasons are complex but changes to District Court rules and processes are expected to be needed to reinvigorate this important function to enable more New Zealanders to cost-effectively resolve their disputes.[1]

The Ministry of Justice Statement of Intent 2018 to 2023 sets out the strategic intentions that will enable delivery of “people-centred services to provide justice for all”[2]. There are discrete projects underway to drive access to justice policy. For example, in May 2018 the Government pledged to increase spending on Community Law Centres by $2.2 million, a 20 per cent increase, to help stabilise funding and current service levels. This was followed a year later by an announcement locking in further funding of $8.72 million over the next four years. Other access to justice related initiatives from recent Government budgets include increasing the capacity of the Human Rights Review Tribunal by appointing deputy chairpersons to hear and determine more claims, and increasing spending on Youth Court capacity in response to changes in the youth justice system which allow 17 year olds to be dealt with there, instead of in adult courts. The Attorney-General has also called on the legal profession to help improve access by increasing the quantity of pro bono legal services provided to the civil market. To incentivise pro bono legal services, a lawyer’s commitment to improving access to justice is now a criterion for being selected as a Queen’s Counsel[3].

In 2019 the Ministry of Justice hosted a three-day criminal justice summit which was attended by more than 600 people from a diverse range of backgrounds. Victims, community advocates and people who have offended participated in a conversation alongside members of the judiciary, public sector officials and Members of Parliament. The structure of the summit was focused on co-design and partnership, with those who attended expected to participate and take ownership of a proposal to reform the criminal justice system. The summit was the “start of the conversation about what New Zealanders want their criminal justice system to look like”[4]. Further consultation will be undertaken by Te Uepū Hāpai I te Ora – The Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group, which will provide advice to the Minister of Justice about a direction for the criminal justice system[5]. In March 2020, the Ministry of Justice hosted a one day civil justice summit, inviting key stakeholders from across the system and a report from that meeting will be published later in 2020.

4.3. Government oversight of access to justice

The Ministry of Justice is the Crown’s lead agency in the justice sector. It is the only agency in New Zealand’s public sector that works across all three branches of government and it is responsible for administering the court system, the legal aid system, and the Public Defenders Service (PDS). It also collects and enforces fines and civil debts, negotiates the settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims and provides policy advice on matters related to justice, the administration of the law, and Crown/Māori relations. Information about the Ministry can be found on its website at <>. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment also has a justice portfolio, in that it oversees a large number of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and is home to the Government Centre for Dispute Resolution (discussed further at 9.4).

There are various institutional practices that are designed to ensure that fundamental human rights are protected, including access to the courts. Mechanisms to review law and policy for consistency with human rights include:

(a) The Regulations Review Committee, which ensures that regulations are made lawfully;
(b) The Cabinet Office Manual, which requires any new law and policy to be assessed according to human rights;
(c) The Ministry of Justice and Crown Law Office, which have an obligation to review all draft legislation to ensure that it is consistent with the NZBORA. Section 7 of the NZBORA requires the Attorney-General to report any Bill that is inconsistent with any of the rights and freedoms contained in the Act to Parliament (this is limited to the introductory Bill, however, and not subsequent amendments).

4.4. Equal access to justice for minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples or other groups

International bodies have criticized New Zealand’s protection of legal rights for those in marginalised groups. These groups include: disabled people; Māori and Pacific peoples; migrant communities; and children and young people. There is also concern about the disproportionate number of Māori in the prison system (see section 12.2 below).

4.5. Access to justice subject of public or scholarly debates

Access to justice is increasingly the subject of scholarly debate. The judiciary – who are frequently faced with the deficiencies in the justice system – have ignited debate through a series of confronting judicial speeches. In 2014, the then Chief High Court Judge, Justice Winkelmann, illustrated the growing justice gap in her speech titled “Access to Justice – Who Needs Lawyers?”, given at the 2014 New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Commemorative Address. Justice Winkelmann stated that access to civil justice is a significant challenge facing New Zealand. Reminding the profession that civil justice is a public good that is necessary uphold the rule of law, she stated that access must be prioritized and facilitated through innovative solutions[6]. Similar concerns about access to justice have since been echoed by the present Chief High Court Judge, Justice Venning[7], the Court of Appeal Justice Kós[8], and retired judge Ron Young[9].

The University of Otago Legal Issues Centre has been a leader in scholarly debate on civil access to justice[10]. The debate on civil justice has also reached the mainstream, for example a feature article in the national Sunday newspaper[11]. Access to justice in the criminal sphere is also a regular topic of debate in the media, with the national summit generating a lot of press coverage[12]. It is also the topic of scholarly debate with contributions from scholars in law, sociology, and criminology.


6.1. Overview of judicial costs for litigants

In this section, we discuss two types of costs litigants incur in bringing or defending a proceeding. First, court fees, which are the fees that litigants are required to pay to the Ministry of Justice in order for their civil cases to proceed through the courts. Second, costs, which is a regime that governs the payment of costs to a successful party by the unsuccessful party on disposal of civil proceedings.

6.1.1. Court fees

Litigants are required to pay a range of fees throughout a proceeding, from filing fees through to hearing fees and to enforcement. The fees payable are set out in regulations relevant to the particular jurisdiction, for example; the High Court Fees Regulations 2013, the Family Court Fees Regulations 2009, and the Court of Appeal Fees Regulations 2001. The Ministry of Justice publishes explanations for the public about court fees and links to the relevant courts and tribunals so that litigants can understand what is required[1].

Plaintiffs are ordinarily required to pay a fee to the Ministry of Justice when commencing proceedings. Defendants are also ordinarily required to pay a fee when they file their statement of defence or response document. Proceedings are not accepted for filing by the Court unless the required fee is paid. Other than hearing fees and fees involved with searching and copying documents where a per day/item methodology is applied, court fees are simply set by relevant regulations.

Tribunals may also require the payment of filing fees. For example, a claimant in the Disputes Tribunal is required to pay a filing fee of $45 for a claim worth $2000 or less. The maximum filing fee in the Disputes Tribunal is $180, for claims of $5000 or more.

As proceedings progress, parties may be required to pay additional fees. For example, if interlocutory applications are filed, the filing party pays a filing fee, and the other party or parties pay when they file their response. Plaintiffs that are participating JSCs must also pay a fee.

The plaintiff is required to pay a scheduling fee and a hearing fee for a matter to proceed to trial. For ordinary proceedings in the High Court the scheduling fee is $1600 and hearing fees are $1600 for each half day (or part of a half day after the first half day) (see items 17(d) and 20 in the Schedule to the High Court Fees Regulations 2013). The scheduling fee must be paid no later than 15 days after all parties are notified of the hearing date (High Court Fees Regulations 2013, r 9(2)) and the hearing fee must be paid within 30 and 45 days of the hearing date (High Court Fees Regulations, r 9(3)). If matters settle before trial, or the hearing is shorter than anticipated, the hearing fee (or balance of the hearing fee) is refunded. If the hearing fee is not paid by the specified time, the registrar may vacate the allocated hearing date. This does not necessarily mean that proceedings are at an end but the late-paying party must apply for a new hearing date. The same applies for JSCs. In the District Court the time frames are the same. The hearing fee and setting down fee are $900.

Interestingly, the fee for a JSC in the District Court (where JSCs are strongly recommended) is higher than in the High Court. Similar provisions regarding hearing fees also apply in other courts but not necessarily in tribunals.

6.1.2. Costs

The issue of costs as between parties to litigation is set out in statute, and is frequently the subject of argument before the Courts. A great deal has been written about costs. In this section, we discuss the main principles relating to costs for litigation in the High Court, which generally apply across New Zealand’s other courts.

The prima facie position regarding litigation is that the successful party is entitled to costs, paid by the unsuccessful party. Costs are set at the discretion of the Court (see High Court Rule 14.1), but the judge will refer to the following principles set out in High Court Rule 14.2:

(a) The party who fails with respect to a proceeding or an interlocutory application should pay costs to the party who succeeds;
(b) An award of costs should reflect the complexity and significance of the proceeding;
(c) Costs should be assessed by applying the appropriate daily recovery rate to the time considered reasonable for each step reasonably required in relation to the proceeding or interlocutory application;
(d) An appropriate daily recovery rate should normally be two-thirds of the daily rate considered reasonable in relation to the proceeding or interlocutory application;
(e) What is an appropriate daily recovery rate and what is a reasonable time should not depend on the skill or experience of the solicitor or counsel involved or on the time actually spent by the solicitor or counsel involved or on the costs actually incurred by the party claiming costs;
(f) An award of costs should not exceed the costs incurred by the party claiming costs; and
(g) So far as possible the determination of costs should be predictable and expeditious.

In ordinary cases, the “appropriate daily recovery rate” referred to in High Court Rule 14.2(c) is calculated by reference to the formula a x b where a is the amount per day that can be claimed in legal fees and b is the amount of time that can be claimed for each step taken in the proceedings. a is given a number category (1, 2, or 3) based on the categorisation of complexity of the proceedings and the degree of experience required of the lawyers involved (High Court Rule 14.3). Each category is then allocated a dollar value set by the relevant court rules (High Court Rule 14.6). Most lawyers and litigants in New Zealand are of the view that this daily recovery rate is less than two-thirds of what is spent by many parties to litigation (despite the intention of Rule 14.2(d)).

The Court may depart from the prima facie position and order:

(a) That costs lie where they fall between the parties. This is often the case where both parties have enjoyed a degree of success in the proceedings.
(b) That the paying party must pay increased costs (High Court Rule 14.6(3))
(c) That the paying party must pay indemnity costs, that is, the full costs incurred by the other party (High Court Rule 14.6(4))
(d) That the amount of costs calculated by the schedule be reduced (High Court Rule 14.7)

While increased costs and indemnity costs may flow following an assessment of the parties’ behaviour, they may also be provided for in contract.

Costs are not awarded against a party who is funded by legal aid. When filing an appeal, parties must clarify in the notice of appeal whether they are in receipt of legal aid. If a legally aided party is successful in the proceedings, the award of costs is paid to the Ministry of Justice. This may decrease the amount that the legally aided party has to repay, depending on their legal aid contract.

Successful parties are also allowed to claim “disbursements”. These encompass the court fees that they have already paid, as well as costs such as counsel’s travel, photocopying and postage, and any experts’ fees. Disbursements must be approved by the Court.

Orders to pay costs and disbursements are enforceable in the same manner as any other order from the Court.

6.2. Exemption from judicial costs

6.2.1. Court fees

Litigants are entitled to seek exemption from liability to pay court fees. We discuss the High Court Fees Regulations 2013 here to provide examples which are linked to statutory provisions, but note that the provisions in the regulations for the District Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court are virtually identical. Under reg 18, a registrar of the High Court is given the power to waive a fee required in connection with a proceeding if satisfied either that the applicant is unable to pay the fee, or that the proceeding concerns a matter of genuine public importance and is unlikely to be commenced or continued unless the fee is paid. The applicant is exempt from making payments until their application is determined. The criteria under which the registrar may be satisfied that payment cannot be made is set out in reg 19:

(a) The person has been granted legal aid for the matter for which the fee is payable; or
(b) The person is dependent on social welfare, superannuation, or a veteran’s pension; or
(c) The person would otherwise suffer undue financial hardship if he or she paid the fee.

The Supreme Court has held that “undue” financial hardship means “excessive”, and granted a waiver where the applicant could prove that they were already in a precarious financial position and would go further into debt to pay the filing fee (Jaffari v Grabowski [2014] NZSC 150 at [7]). This is a more generous interpretation than that given by the Court of Appeal in Boswell v Millar [2013] NZCA 219, where the Court held that the burden of the applicant’s legal debts were “an ordinary consequence” of her decision to sue the respondent.
Regulation 20 defines the criteria for determining “genuine public importance” as follows:

(a) The proceeding will determine a question of law that is of significant interest to the public or to a substantial section of the public;
(b) The proceeding raises issues of significant interest to the public or to a substantial section of the public and has been commenced by an organisation that is “expressly or by necessary implication required to promote matters in the public interest”.

There is little in the case law in relation to waiver applications in either the High Court, the Court of Appeal, or the Supreme Court to offer guidance as to the “genuine public importance” test.

A person seeking a waiver must make a formal application to the registrar of the relevant Court. A registrar is a statutory appointment given specific powers, including considering fee waiver applications. The applicant must use the fee waiver form that is available via the Ministry of Justice website. If the applicant is in receipt of legal aid or social welfare they must provide proof of this. If they are not in recipient of legal aid or social welfare but are otherwise claiming undue financial hardship, or claiming the proceedings are in the general public interest, then the applicant must provide details by way of a statutory declaration (a written declaration given on oath).

If an application for waiver is declined by the registrar, the applicant has 20 working days to apply for review of that decision (see Senior Courts Act 2016, s160). Again, the Ministry of Justice website provides forms for the applicant to complete. The review will be considered by a judge of the relevant court. A litigant unsatisfied with a Judge’s decision may further appeal that decision, but would need to seek additional fee waivers in the relevant higher courts.

6.2.2. Overall: do costs and fees promote or limit access to justice?

The cost of litigation, and the impact of costs orders on parties, is considered to be a major issue concerning access to civil justice in New Zealand. Commenting recently to the NZLS, the chair of the society’s Civil Litigation and Tribunals Committee noted that costs can easily overrun the amount sought in a case[2]. The cost of court fees is a significant barrier which introduces a “user pays” mentality into a system that should be regarded as a public good[3]. The much larger cost, however, is the fees charged by lawyers and attention is also being focused on how these can be lowered[4].

6.3. Mechanisms to reduce costs by variations to courts and procedures

It is well recognised in New Zealand that one way to minimise costs to litigants is to streamline procedure or develop procedure that avoids legal costs. As already discussed in this report, the New Zealand system has a variety of mechanisms to reduce cost. The Tribunals, designed to lower cost, are discussed in section 3.4. Tribunals have lower filing fees and because lawyers are barred, they are also structured to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, the cost of legal assistance. Variations in filing fees are discussed in section 6.1.1. Court procedures such as summary judgment and the District Court short trial (section 3.2.4) have been introduced with the intention to streamline proceedings and to lower costs. ADR (both private and state-provided) is offered as a mechanism to avoid or minimise the cost of legal proceedings (see section 3.3).

On 17 December 2019 the Rules Committee announced a “wide reaching” review of the High Court Rules and the District Court Rules. On its website the Committee describes the review’s overall goal:

… to improve access to justice in New Zealand by reducing how much it costs to bring a civil matter to court. The Committee wants to better enable judges, and encourage lawyers, to honour their responsibility to ensure that the costs of each case are as low as can be while ensuring that justice is done.[5]

Submissions on the proposed reforms are being sought from the legal profession and from the wider public during 2020.


7.1. Diffuse interests

Proceedings in New Zealand may be brought by organisations, statutory bodies or government departments on behalf of indeterminate groups of people in order to protect diffuse interests. We give some examples:

(a) Powelliphanta Augustus Inc v Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd (High Court, Christchurch, 9/7/2007, CIV-2006-409-2993, Panckhurst J) was concerned with an application for judicial review brought against Solid Energy, a state owned enterprise, by a “public interest body concerned with the wellbeing of [native] snails relocated in the context of Solid Energy’s mining operation” (at [2]).
(b) Stop the Stadium Inc v The Dunedin City Council (High Court, Dunedin, 24/4/2009, CIV 2009-412-337, Chisholm J) was an unsuccessful application for judicial review brought by a ratepayer’s organisation challenging a council’s decision to enter into a construction contract for a new stadium. The organisation was concerned about the impact the project would have on rates.
(c) Falun Dafa Association of New Zealand Inc v Auckland Children’s Christmas Trust Board [8 HRNZ 680] was an application for judicial review of the defendant’s decision to decline permission for it to participate in the annual Auckland Christmas parade.

As we discuss above (see 3.1.2), local authorities can bring prosecutions against individuals and/or companies that breach environmental regulations, planning regulations, or regulations concerning food safety, dog owners, and similar. There are other entities established by the government, but independent from it, who can bring cases that concern their area of responsibility. For example, the Commerce Commission (an independent Crown entity charged with enforcing laws in relation to competition, fair trade and consumer credit contracts) can bring proceedings against companies that engage in price fixing, or in misleading or deceptive trade practices, and WorkSafe (an arm of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) is tasked with regulating and enforcing New Zealand’s health and safety legislation.

The specific court procedures that apply for litigation concerning diffuse interests will vary depending on the nature of the remedy that is sought. Some cases are quasi-criminal, for example prosecutions brought by local authorities under the Resource Management Act 1991. Other cases are heard in the civil jurisdiction, for example, applications for judicial review.

7.2. Collective rights

7.2.1. Civil procedure mechanisms

The rules of civil procedure provide various methods under which parties with similar interests may join or merge proceedings (see High Court Rules, subpart 3). For example, proceedings may include more than one plaintiff where two or more parties seek the same relief. Plaintiffs may be represented by the same lawyer, or each may have their own representation (this may depend on whether or not conflicts may arise). A party who becomes aware of litigation that might affect their interests may apply to be joined to civil proceedings as a plaintiff or third party.

Two or more proceedings may be consolidated (tried at the same time or one immediately after the other) where the Court is satisfied that some common question of law or fact arises in all of the proceedings, or the rights to relief claimed in the proceedings arise out of the same event or transaction. In such a situation the Court may also order that any of the proceedings be stayed until after the determination of another.

7.2.2. Legal personhood

In 2014, New Zealand let the world in recognising the legal personhood of Te Urewera Ranges, the ewe whenua (place of origin and return), and homeland of the Tūhoe people (Te Urewera Act 2014, s 3(5)).  In 2017, Parliament passed Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017 (Te Awa Tupua Act) to recognise the special relationship between the Whanganui River and iwi of that area. Section 14 of the Te Awa Tupua Act confers legal personality on the Whanganui River/Te Awa Tupua, “an indivisible and living whole, comprising the Whanganui River from the mountains to the sea, incorporating all its physical and metaphysical elements” (s 12).  The effect of Te Urewera Act and Te Awa Tupua Act means decisions that affect Te Urewera or Te Awa Tupua must recognise their legal status and their health and well-being. This mechanism is another way of protecting collective rights of iwi, but to date no litigation has been commenced under either of the Acts.

7.3. Class actions

While not particularly common in New Zealand, class action lawsuits have been identified as an “increasingly strong access to justice route” by the NZLS[1]. A leading New Zealand commentator on class actions describes them as:

A legal procedure which enables a number of persons with similar claims (or parts of claims) against the same defendant to be determined in one suit. In a class action, one or more persons (the ‘representative plaintiff(s)’) may sue on his, her or their own behalf and on behalf of a number of other persons (‘the class’) where the class claims a remedy for the same or a similar alleged wrong as the representative plaintiff (‘common issues’). Usually, only the representative plaintiff is a party to the action. The class members are not generally identified as individual parties to the litigation but merely described. The class members are bound by the outcome of the litigation on the common issues, whether favourable or adverse to the class, although they do not for the most part, take any active part in that litigation.[2]

Class actions in New Zealand have proceeded only on an opt-in basis (all members of the defined plaintiff class must positively decide to opt-in to the proceedings). This is different to most comparable jurisdictions, where class actions are “almost invariably brought on an opt-out basis”[3].

While the Rules Committee worked on a proposed draft Class Actions Bill in 2008 and recommended amendments to the High Court Rules, there are presently no detailed statutory provisions with regard to class actions.  The Law Commission announced a review in 2017, but got no further than releasing draft terms of reference. In 2019 the Commission dusted off its review and announced that a report on the law relating to class actions and litigation funding in New Zealand and what law reform is desirable will be completed by the end of 2021[4].

While there are no detailed statutory provisions, High Court Rule 4.24 does allow class actions to proceed in New Zealand. The Rule states:

One or more persons may sue or be sued on behalf of, or for the benefit of, all persons with the same interest in the subject matter of a proceeding—

(a) with the consent of the other persons who have the same interest; or

(b) as directed by the court on an application made by a party or intending party to the proceeding.

Nikki Chamberlain’s paper records that until 1 March 2018, 36 class actions had been filed in the High Court in New Zealand. Before the 1980s there were just three class actions, then the 1980s brought in four. By the 1990s that figure had doubled to eight and by the first decade of the 2000s, it was 13. Between 2010 and 2018 there have been eight.

In September 2019, the Court of Appeal handed down its decision in Ross v Southern Response Earthquake Services Limited, a claim brought by a group of Canterbury homeowners against Southern Response, a Government-owned company formed to handle certain claims arising out of the Christchurch earthquakes. The Court of Appeal determined that it is not “necessary or appropriate” to wait for detailed legislation about class actions to be enacted before the Courts can order cases to proceed on an opt-out basis, as the courts “have the necessary powers to manage the procedural issues that will arise in the context of opt-out [class actions]” (see [111]). At paragraph 98 of the decision, the Court states that an opt-out approach is “likely to significantly enhance access to justice.” As at March 2020, the law on opting-out class actions in New Zealand remains unsettled, Southern Response having appealed to the Supreme Court.

7.3.1. Policies that encourage counsel to litigate group claims

As we discussed above, legal aid is only granted to individuals, so incorporated societies or other entities that are seeking to protect group interests (such as an environmental protection group) are unable to obtain legal aid. Māori groups involved in Waitangi Tribunal claims may be eligible for grants of legal aid (see section 5.8.2).

The Ministry for the Environment operates an Environmental Legal Assistance Fund for not for profit groups “advocating for matters of environmental public interest”. This funding is intended to enable groups to “participate more effectively and efficiently in resource management processes at the Environment Court, higher courts, or board of enquiry”. The fund has a total annual budget of $600,000 and the maximum grant available is $50,000 per group per application for any one case. Funding criteria is set out in some detail on the Ministry’s website[5].

New Zealand does not have a tradition of “public interest law firms”, although there may be some lawyers or law firms who have a particular interest in public interest work. These firms may offer reduced fees or pro bono work for some causes but there is no existing data on this.


9.1. Access to technology

Access to technology in New Zealand is generally high, but it is not universal. Surveys carried out since 2012 estimate that access to the internet ranges from 91-93%. This includes access to household internet connections (­≈ 80%) and reliable mobile internet connections (≈ 3.85 million) (InternetNZ, 2017).

Broadband access had reached 79 per cent of New Zealanders by November 2019, according to a November 2019 announcement by the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media[1]. The Government aims to reach 87% broadband coverage by 2025. A Rural Broadband initiative by the government-owned Crown Infrastructure Partners, aims to improve access in rural areas[2].

Mobile and smart phone use is also high. Statistics New Zealand reports that New Zealand had 3.8 million mobile phones with active internet connections at 30 June 2017. This was up 11 percent from the same time in 2016[3]. A 2019 report drawing on ‘Google Consumer Barometer Data’ estimated that 81 per cent of New Zealanders have a smartphone[4].

Digital exclusion persists in some communities despite the broad coverage. New Zealand’s 2018 census said that 211,000 households (13%) do not have internet access at home. These groups include seniors, people with disabilities, people living in rural communities, families with children in low socio-economic communities, migrants and refugees, and offenders and ex-offenders. Māori and Pasifika have also been identified as being more likely to be digitally excluded than the general population[5]. A 2018 report delved into these numbers further based on interviews with communities experiencing digital exclusion[6]. The report noted that digital exclusion disproportionately affects people already experiencing social exclusion, for example loss of online contact can cause people to lose contact with welfare providers and be cut off from financial entitlements. Barriers to digital access included cost (subscriptions and devices), physical accessibility (including the need for adapted devices), skills, motivation and trust.

To improve digital inclusion, the New Zealand Government introduced a Digital Inclusion Blueprint in March 2019. This blueprint sets out the vision for a digitally included New Zealand and the steps required to ensure that digital transformation does not exclude any sectors of society. Digital inclusion is defined as “having convenient access to, and the ability to confidently use, the internet through devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets”[7]. Central government sees its role in realising this vision in four parts: (1) leading future directions; (2) connecting people, funders, and initiatives; (3) providing support to those working to address digital inclusion; and (4) delivering services.

9.2. Technology in the delivery of non-legal public services

Digital services in New Zealand’s public sector are increasing, creating a generally positive environment for digital innovation in the public sector. People can perform many administrative tasks online, for example tax filing, company filing, and passport applications. Justice-related areas such as those related to tenancy and employment issues have dedicated government websites with resources and links to sources of help.

Significant digital achievements are described at the Government’s <> website. Recent successes include multi-agency collaborations such as SmartStart, a consolidated digital service to guide individuals through the steps involved in pregnancy and early childhood[8], and the world’s first fully online passport renewal service[9]. There have also been facilitative initiatives such as appointing a Government Chief Privacy Officer to help government agencies manage privacy and security more effectively.

New Zealand’s health sector has its own digital health strategy[10]. Developments from a patient point of view include increasing use of patient portals through which patients can access their health information and interact with their general practice. As of September 2019, 898,132 people in New Zealand were using patient portals offered by 653 general practices. Of these 118 practices offer open clinical notes, 30 can offer video conference consults, and 310 offer access to laboratory results[11]. There is also a well-used national 24/7 health line, which acts as a triage service and enables people to speak to a nurse over the phone.

9.3. Technology in the practice of law

9.3.1. Law firms

Adoption of technology seems to be gathering momentum among New Zealand law firms, with some pockets of innovation and new products entering the market. However the authors are not aware of any specific research quantifying legal practitioners use of technology for business purposes. Productivity tools (e.g. Microsoft Office packages, file and time management, document preparation) are commonplace in most legal offices, and some larger law firms run sophisticated bespoke file management and trust accounting systems. Some legal practices have used technology for service innovation. A network called Legal Tech NZ has been set up to facilitate the development and adoption of legal technology in New Zealand[12]. There is an annual LawFest event which showcases new technology for legal practice. This includes technology to support new forms of service delivery to clients as well as technology for managing client matters or collaborating with other professionals. Information about the extent to which law firms are investing in such newly available products is not available.

9.3.2. Community providers

New Zealand has two key providers of legal services or legal information to low income clients: Community Law Aotearoa and Citizens Advice Bureau. Community Law Aotearoa is an umbrella organisation for local Community Law centres throughout New Zealand, which focuses on in-person clinics but also provides online information. Citizen’s Advice Bureau is a national network with in-person drop in centres and a strong online presence. It specialises in general rather than legal advice but much of its advice necessarily involves legal content. Both organisations are under significant resource pressure, which makes innovation and adoption of technology difficult.

Citizen’s Advice Bureau has a national knowledge management system/intranet, which is the main source of information used by its volunteer advisers. It recently launched an improved website featuring a question and answer style information service that draws on the intranet knowledge base. The website includes an online chat service[13]. In 2019 the website and intranet were shortlisted for two Designers Institute of NZ “Best Design Awards”: the Public Good Award and the User Experience Award.

Community Law publishes its comprehensive Community Law Manual as both a hardcopy book and a free online resource[14]. Community Law’s YouthLaw section, which provides free legal services to young people, takes enquiries via email and phone.

Community Law Wellington has established a separate non-profit company, Citizen AI, a charitable company that researches, develops, and promotes artificial intelligence systems for public benefit[15]. Citizen AI has developed chat bots to provide legal information. “Rentbot” provides legal information for tenancy issues while “Workbot” is under development to provide legal information for employment issues. The bots do not offer legal advice, which can only be offered by a practising lawyer.

New Zealand does not have a technology-based referral system for legal and pro bono services, or digital assistance for self-represented litigants (apart from basic online information about using courts and tribunals). The Ministry of Justice website has a basic online service to help individuals find legal aid lawyers.

Some advocacy and community action groups use social media and online petition platforms to campaign and enlist public support for causes, particularly to rally support for emerging issues. Examples include the platform operated by ActionStation Aotearoa (<>) and local use of the global platform (<>). New Zealand’s Parliament also operates an online platform on which any New Zealander can host a petition to the House of Representatives.

9.4. Online dispute resolution

New Zealand is increasingly introducing elements of online dispute resolution. The Government has set up the Government Centre for Dispute Resolution (GCDR) to provide cross-government leadership to sectors that develop dispute resolution schemes. The GCDR intends to use data analytics and experience to promote best practice dispute resolution.

We are now beginning to see elements of online dispute resolution emerging in New Zealand Tribunals. An example is the Tenancy Tribunal, which is responsible for resolving disputes between tenants and landlords. As of November 2018, the three tiers that we expect in an online court were operational – or at least provided for – in the Tenancy Tribunal. The Tribunal had introduced a front-end online portal for filing an application, which applicants are strongly encouraged to use instead of the paper forms. The parties are then automatically referred to a mediation service (parties must opt out, not in), which is facilitated by the Tenancy Mediator and usually occurs over the telephone. If the parties cannot resolve the dispute, they proceed to the Tenancy Tribunal. While currently this is a physical space it need not be as reforms in 2018 state:

The hearing of a matter of any part of it may be conducted by telephone, audiovisual link, or other remote access facility if the Tenancy Adjudicator conducting the hearing considers it appropriate and the necessary facilities are available. (Section 96(3A) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (inserted via sweeping reforms created by the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Act 2018))

Similar amendments are beginning to emerge in the Disputes Tribunal, which is responsible for the resolution of small claims up to the value of $30,000. Again, applicants can choose to file their dispute using the online form, rather than the paper-based form.

Another example is FairWay, which has partnered with Tyler Technologies to deliver Modria online dispute resolution software in New Zealand. FairWay’s team assists organisations with the design and implementation of “customised automated online resolution pathways” through which the Modria platform triages and channels disputes. FairWay also provides mediators, arbitrators and adjudicators for “disputes that require an independent intervention”[16].

Despite a focus on online dispute resolution and courts in the jurisdictions we usually look towards – such as England, Australia, and Canada – there has been limited discussion in New Zealand. The Ministry of Justice frequently speak to the “five-year modernisation roadmap”, which includes a technology overhaul but this has not included an overt discussion of an online court.

9.5. Information and assistance

Assistance for court and tribunal users is generally confined to traditional means; innovation is limited to websites that provide information about each step in the process and contact numbers for general enquiries. There are some small innovations such as a Ministry of Justice text message reminder service to remind people of their court dates. Notably, on each court and tribunal webpage there is a “related links” section, which directs the user to the Community Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau. This encourages those who are navigating the process without the help of a lawyer to seek substantive help from these external providers, as opposed to the tribunals themselves.

The courts and tribunals provide some assistance to people with accessibility needs. For example, an independent interpreter will be provided, free of charge, if required. In the Disputes Tribunal, an applicant can appear with a lawyer (which is usually not allowed) if the applicant has a disability that makes communication difficult, or there is some other good reason. Similar assistance is made available in the Courts. For example, if a person needs to speak with registry staff at the counter but cannot communicate in English, a telephone-based interpreter can be made available. A case can be heard in an accessible court room if a person has a mobility problem and court documents can be provided in Braille for people with vision impairment. The Superdiversity Institute of Law, Policy and Business released a report in 2019 which looks at the “unique issues and challenges faced by courts, judges, lawyers, prosecutors and interpreter to ensure equal access to justice for culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse parties in the courts”. The study focusses on Chinese litigants and defendants in particular[17].

As New Zealand increases its use of online dispute resolution, it will need to consider the accessibility of online systems. Such consideration could draw on the digital inclusion blueprint mentioned earlier in this section[18].

9.6. Successful use of technology to provide legal services in innovative ways

Few New Zealand law firms have ‘broken the mould’ to deliver legal services in innovative ways. Firms have adopted technology primarily for productivity improvements, such as electronic discovery software and contract reviewing software, and sophisticated time recording and document storage systems. The absence of innovation may be particularly felt by the ‘person in the street’ who cannot afford traditional legal services or who finds the traditional means of obtaining legal services daunting.

While some firms are attempting to innovate and find solutions to these issues, no profession-wide trend has emerged.  Examples can be found of firms adopting software and technology to enable them to service clients remotely, for example rural clients or vulnerable clients. One such firm, Portia[19] has direct audio-visual links to a women’s refuges. Other firms are developing and marketing their own automated services and using them to service clients or to sell solutions to other law businesses. An example is Legal Beagle, which allows users to create personalised legal documents for business and family issues through an automated question and answer-based programme called Automio[20].

New Zealand has seen the arrival of websites that help people with routine court matters, such as applications for a limited driving licence following a driving conviction and loss of licence. While these services are relatively affordable and accessible, they are problematic in that they are unregulated and often anonymous, which leaves users without recourse if something goes wrong. These websites may be harbingers of more unregulated technological services filling the vacuum left by an under-innovative profession. New Zealand’s regulatory framework may be unprepared to oversee such services from a quality and accountability perspective.

While examples of innovation and entrepreneurialism remain the exception in New Zealand’s legal profession, the conditions for improvement are positive. The profession can draw on New Zealand’s strong and innovative digital economy, which has grown many successful service and digital businesses in other sectors. The tools and skills are available; what is needed is the motivation to improve services to those who find it difficult to access legal services in their traditional form.


New Zealand does not have any significant global or regional access to justice efforts focused within its jurisdiction.

12.1. Non-governmental organizations on Access to Justice in New Zealand

International NGOs, for example, Amnesty International, may campaign on justice-related issues from time to time. We are not aware of any current, significant, NGO collaborations on access to justice issues.

12.2. Steps being taken to articulate and elaborate Sustainable Development Goal 16.3 in New Zealand

In 2019 New Zealand published its first Voluntary National Review of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The review of SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, notes:

Transparency International has ranked New Zealand as one of the least corrupt and most trustworthy countries in the world. We are well aligned on participatory and representative decision making, legal identity and ensuring public access to information, and have policies and practical actions in these areas[1].

The review also recognises significant challenges to fulfilling the vison encapsulated in SDG 16, including that Māori and Pacific peoples have experienced longstanding disparities in the area of justice. Other groups facing “discrimination and other challenges” include the LGBTIQ+ community, new migrants to New Zealand, and New Zealanders with disabilities[2]. Significant specific challenges are New Zealand’s high reported rates of family and sexual violence, which are among the highest in the developed world, and the over-representation of Māori in New Zealand’s prison population[3]. The review records that New Zealand’s SDG 16 initiatives are focused on the wellbeing of children and whānau and are “dedicated to a long term and systematic approach to end family violence and sexual violence”[4].

The review recognises that improving access to justice is a “key challenge” facing New Zealand’s justice system and notes that “some New Zealanders are less likely [than others] to seek help when they have a problem that would benefit from legal services”[5]. The review refers to the New Zealand Government’s 2018 review of the legal aid system which included examining the income thresholds for eligibility and the need to repay legal aid.

In the non-government sector, Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) is monitoring New Zealand’s response and progress to the SDGs[6]. TINZ records “much discussion but little tangible action in relation to understanding the SDGs and how they apply to New Zealand.  TINZ’s main focus is SDG 16.5 (Integrity: Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms), not 16.3 (Access to Justice). We are not aware of any groups specifically monitoring progress on 16.3.


Access to justice does not generally feature as a policy priority in mainstream discourse, but it has been a significant focus of the legal community and of the sectors of the government directly involved in administering justice. As a small, unitary democracy, New Zealand is able to be flexible and creative in responding to access to justice problems. The Rangatahi (Māori youth court) and the Canterbury Earthquake list, are examples of such innovative and responsive approaches. New Zealand has also been world-leading in the granting of legal personhood to natural features, which is a promising means of more broadly conceiving access to justice.

The flexible and creative approaches to problem solving can, however, also result in policies and initiatives that sacrifice core principles such as access to the courts and open justice. This has been a feature of both the civil and criminal system. In civil justice the removal of rights to counsel and the emphasis on mediation and other confidential dispute resolution, while the subject of only limited empirical study, is thought to act against the interests of the less powerful. Within the criminal justice system, informal means to resolving cases and low legal aid payments are thought to be incentivising guilty pleas, rather than protecting the right to trial and the presumption of innocence.

There are also significant structural problems that affect access to justice. Social inequality and discrimination against Māori and Pasifika are reflected in high incarceration rates for these groups. Underfunding and cumbersome administration of legal aid, along with high prices in the legal services market, have meant that a significant portion of the population do not have access to legal assistance.

The emphasis on access to justice as a guiding principle in systemic reform is, however, a reason for optimism. The summits held, in 2019 on criminal access to justice and in 2020 on civil access to justice, show a genuine commitment on the part of government to address concerns. Similarly, the current consultation on procedural reform in the civil system, which is guided by access to justice concerns, demonstrates the importance being placed on access to justice. While there is much room for improvement, there is also a growing understanding and interest in the importance of ensuring all New Zealanders can access justice.


[1] Aotearoa is the Māori name for New Zealand and is often used in conjunction to with “New Zealand” as a name for the country.

[2]  See: <>

[3] See: <>

[4] It is of note that a number of the requested indicators (income inequality, life expectancy) will be reported differently from 2019. New Zealand is developing well-being indicators to track New Zealand’s progress. This set of indicators will build on international best practice and be tailored to New Zealand, and will go beyond economic measures, such as GDP, to include wellbeing and sustainable development. For more information, see Ngā Tūtohu Aotearoa – Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand at <>.

[5] All dollar values in this report are in NZD unless otherwise stated.

[6] For example, a P80/20 of 3.0 indicates that the incomes of individuals in households at the top of the 80th percentile are three times higher than for those at the top of the 20th percentile.

[7] Bryan Perry “Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2017” Ministry of Social Development, October 2018.

[8] Bryan Perry “Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2017” Ministry of Social Development, October 2018, p 94.

[9] Statistics New Zealand.

[10] United Nations Development Programme.

[11] See: <>

[12] See: <>

[13] This translates as “The Māori Land Law Act 1993” (Whenua = “land” and Ture = “law” – see John C Moorfield, Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary <>.

[14] Extended family, family group … the primary economic unit of traditional Māori society (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary).

[15] Kinship group, clan, tribe, subtribe – section of a large kinship group and the primary political unit in traditional Māori society. It consisted of a number of whānau sharing descent from a common ancestor (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary).

[16] See: <>

[17] Youth (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary).

[18] Traditional meeting house/gathering place.

[19] Male elder (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary).

[20] Female elder (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary).

[21] Welcome ceremony (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary).

[22] Reciting one’s lineage.

[23] Customary (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary).

[24] For example, see: Bridgette Toy-Cronin et al “Wheels of Justice: Understanding the Pace of Civil High Court Cases” (2017) University of Otago Legal Issues Centre, where concerns about the validity of the Ministry data was raised.

[25] See s 30 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and its supporting regulations.

[26] Geoff Adlam, “Diversity in the New Zealand Legal Profession: at a Glance”, LawTalk, September 2019, pp 61-68.

[27] Geoff Adlam, “Diversity in the New Zealand Legal Profession: at a Glance”, LawTalk, September 2019, pp 61-68.

[28] For further details, see: University of Otago Legal Issues Centre “Accessing Legal Services: The Price of Litigation Services”, pp 12-14.

[29] See: Judge Andrew Becroft, “The Rise and Rise of Lay Advocates in Aotearoa New Zealand” Conference Presentation to the National Youth Advocates/Lay Advocates Conference, 13-14 July 2015.

[30] See: Tracey Cormack “McKenzie friends: There’s more of them, but what do they actually do?” LawTalk 923, 9 November 2018.

[31] Available at: <>

[32] See: <>

[33] See: <>

[34] Available at: <>

[35] Geoff Adlam “New Zealand’s Judiciary at 14 March 2019” LawTalk 927, 5 April 2019.

[36] Geoff Adlam “New Zealand’s Judiciary at 14 March 2019” LawTalk 927, 5 April 2019.

[37] R v Te Kira [1993] 3 NZLR 257 (CA), the defendant was detained for about four hours, during which time he could have been taken before court. He was not taken before the court because the police were pursuing inquiries to establish whether he could be charged with a more serious offence arising out of the situation that had resulted in his arrest. This was held to be in breach of s 23(3) of the NZBORA.

[38] For critiques on these processes, see: Sian Elias Fairness in Criminal Justice: Golden Threads and Pragmatic Patches (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2018) chapter 3.

[39] Ronald Young “Has the New Zealand criminal justice system been compromised?” (2016) 24 Waikato Law Review 1.

[40] See: <>

[41] See: <>

[42] Courts of New Zealand, Judicial Settlement Conferences: The High Court Guidelines, April 2012.

[43] For more detail see: Nina Khouri “Civil justice responses to natural disaster New Zealand’s Christchurch High Court earthquake list” (2017) 36(3) Civil Justice Quarterly 316.

[44] Toy-Cronin, B., Irvine, B., Stewart, K., & Henaghan, M. (2017), The Wheels of Justice: Understanding the Pace of Civil High Court Cases (Project Report).

[45] Grant Morris and Annabel Shaw Mediation in New Zealand (Thomson Reuters, Wellington, 2018), p. 42.

[46] Claire Baylis “Reviewing Statutory Models of Mediation/Conciliation in New Zealand: Three Conclusions” (1999) 30 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 279.

[47] Rachael Schmidt-McCleave and Julia Caldwell “ADR clauses and the courts” (2013) November New Zealand Law Journal 384.

[48] Grant Morris and Annabel Shaw Mediation in New Zealand (Thomson Reuters, Wellington, 2018, p 194.

[49] Ministry of Justice, Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau: The final report of the Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms, May 2019.

[50] See paras 197 and 199 of the report.

[51] See: <>

[52] See: <>

[53] For an explanation of the scheme see: <>

[54] Hazel Armstrong, ‘Workplace safety and accident compensation – Accident compensation’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, <>

[55] See: Forster, W., Barraclough, T. and Mijatov, T. (22 May 2017) Solving the Problem: Causation, transparency and access to justice in New Zealand’s personal injury system.

[56] Hon David Parker, “Chief District Court Judge appointed” Press Release, 25 September 2019.

[57] Available at: <> at p. 5.

[58] Jenni McManus “Attorney-General calls for more pro bono work” ADLS, 13 September 2019.

[59] Available at: <>

[60] See: <>

[61] Justice Helen Winkelmann, Chief High Court Judge “Access to Justice – Who Needs Lawyers?” Ethel Benjamin Address, Dunedin, 7 November 2014.

[62] Justice Geoffrey Venning “Access to Justice – A Constant Quest” Address to the NZBA Conference, Napier, 7 August 2015.

[63] Justice Stephen Kós “Civil Justice: Haves, Have-nots and What to Do about Them” Address to the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand and International Academy of Mediators Conference, Queenstown, March 2016.

[64] Sir Ron Young “Has New Zealand’s Justice System Been Compromised” 25th Annual Harkness Henry Lecture, Waikato University, 7 September 2016.

[65] See: <>

[66] See: <>

[67] See, for example: <> and <>

[68] Kayla Stewart and Bridgette Toy-Cronin, “The New Zealand Legal Services Mapping Project: Finding Free and Low-Cost Legal Services Pilot Report” (University of Otago Legal Issues Centre, 2018).

[69] Wellbeing Budget, New Zealand Government, 2019.

[70] See: <>

[71] Ronald Young “Has the New Zealand criminal justice system been compromised?” (2016) 24 Waikato Law Review 1.

[72] See: Deborah Morris “Public defenders or private: battle lines are drawn”, 18 June 2011, <>. See also Sian Elias “Fairness in Criminal Justice: Golden Threads and Pragmatic Patches” (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2018), chapter 3.

[73] This graph depicts a proxy measure of how many criminal cases are funded using the legal aid scheme. The Ministry of Justice data for individuals charged with an offence only counts a person once per calendar year. This therefore might underestimate the number of individuals charged within a calendar year. For example, a person might have been charged for disorderly conduct and then burglary across two separate incidents in 2018. The data will only count this person once in 2018, and for the most serious offence of burglary. Further, individuals might apply for a legal aid grant to bring an appeal or parole hearing. This data is not reported in a way that enables us to tease out what step in the legal process the grant is available for. We therefore cannot directly compare the number of grants awarded against the people charged with an offence.

[74] New Zealand Bar Association Working Group on Access to Justice Access to Justice: Āhei ki te Ture (New Zealand Bar Association, 2018).

[75] Kayla Stewart and Bridgette Toy-Cronin “The New Zealand Legal Services Mapping Project: Finding Free and Low-Cost Legal Services Pilot Report” (University of Otago Legal Issues Centre, 2018).

[76] Kayla Stewart and Bridgette Toy-Cronin “The New Zealand Legal Services Mapping Project: Finding Free and Low-Cost Legal Services Pilot Report” (University of Otago Legal Issues Centre, 2018), at 13.

[77] The information in the tables on these pages is from the Ministry of Justice <> Data on the number of applications/approvals, and the income level of applicants for legal aid, is not available.

[78] See: <>

[79] “Taking a case of a value less than $50,000 might not be worth it” <>

[80] Justice Helen Winkelmann, Chief High Court Judge “Access to Justice – Who Needs Lawyers?” Ethel Benjamin Address, Dunedin, 7 November 2014.

[81] Toy-Cronin, B. (2019). Explaining and changing the price of litigation services. New Zealand Law Journal, 9, 310-319.

[82] Available at: <>

[83] See: <>

[84] Nikki Chamberlain “Class Actions in New Zealand: An Empirical Study” 24(2) NZBLQ 132-165.

[85] Ross v Southern Response Earthquake Services Limited [2019] NZCA 431 at [55].

[86] See: <>

[87] See: <>

[88] For a comprehensive review of the New Zealand regime see: Selene Mize “New Zealand: Finding the Balance between Self-Regulation and Government Oversight” in A Boon (ed) International Perspectives on the Regulation of Lawyers (2017).

[89] Kate Diesfeld and Marta Rychert, “What disciplinary decisions reveal about practitioners’ health” Auckland District Law Society News, 7 December 2018.

[90] Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Ongoing Legal Education—Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013, r 5.

[91] Stewart, K., Toy-Cronin, B., & Choe, L. (2020). New Zealand lawyers, Pro Bono, and Access to Justice (Civil Justice Insight Series).

[92] Stewart et al, New Zealand lawyers, Pro Bono, and Access to Justice, at 13-14.

[93] See: <>

[94] Report of the New Zealand Law Society Working Group November 2018 <>

[95] See: <>

[96] See: <>

[97] See: <>

[98] See: <>

[99] ‘Digital New Zealanders: The Pulse of our Nation’, Digital Inclusion Research Group, 2017.

[100] Out of the Maze: building digitally inclusive communities, Vodafone New Zealand Foundation and InternetNZ <>

[101] Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs “The Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Te Mahere mō te Whakaurunga Matihiko” 2019, p 7.

[102] See: <>

[103] See: <>

[104] See: <>

[105] See: <>

[106] See: <>

[107] See: <>

[108] See: <>

[109] See: <>

[110] For more information, see FairWay’s website <> and section 3.3 above.

[111] See: <>

[112] Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs “The Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Te Mahere mō te Whakaurunga Matihiko” 2019.

[113] See: <>

[114] See: <>

[115] Ignite Research Report on the 2006 National Survey of Unmet Legal Needs and Access to Services, Wellington, 2006.

[116] See <>

[117]  See: <>

[118] Kayla Stewart and Bridgette Toy-Cronin “The New Zealand Legal Services Mapping Project: Finding Free and Low-Cost Legal Services Pilot Report” (University of Otago Legal Issues Centre, 2018).

[119] New Zealand Voluntary National Review 2019, page 109 <>

[120] Op. cit., p 109.

[121] Op. cit., p 109.

[122] Op. cit., p 109.

[123] Op. cit., p 111.

[124] See: <>