New courts statutes taking effect on 1 March 2017 mark the biggest shift in legislation underpinning the courts for nearly 40 years, Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue says.
The District Court Act 2016 is part of a suite of legislation modernising New Zealand courts. Instead of a network of separate district courts, the District Court is now consolidated into a unified entity with general, Family, Youth and Disputes Tribunal divisions.
Changes include an expanded jurisdiction in civil matters from $200,000 previously to $350,000, the availability of new orders, a lift in the maximum number of permanent judges to 160, more specified powers for the Chief Judge, and requirements to publish progress on delivery of reserved judgments.
Chief Judge Doogue says that when taken alongside accompanying legislative changes, such as that opening the way for more audio visual links in court, the District Court Act 2016 simplifies the structure of the court and better reflects modern approaches.
"The vast majority of people who go to court in New Zealand rely on a District Court, and will continue to attend their nearest courthouse," she says.
"They may notice little practical change, but this is a historic milestone. The measures are designed to bring more clarity and transparency and will help the District Court adapt to changes experienced since the landmark Royal Commission on the Courts recommended establishment of district courts in 1978.
Further information on changes
Associate Justice Minister Mark Mitchell says the changes introduced on 1 March 2017 focus on creating a more people-centred justice system by making it easier to understand and more efficient for people to use.
The Ministry of Justice has released a backgrounder on the changes introduced from 1 March by the Judicature Modernisation Bill.