New Zealand Law Society - AMINZ’s new role in appointing arbitrators

AMINZ’s new role in appointing arbitrators

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The Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ) has been chosen as the official agency to appoint arbitrators in the place of the High Court.

The appointment, which came into force on 1 March 2017, marks a significant amendment that was made last October to the Arbitration Act 1996. It also reflects the growing use of arbitrators in cases.

The relevant new amendment requires that, in cases where an arbitrator needs to be appointed in accordance with section 11 of the Act, the parties need to seek the assistance of a body appointed by the Minister of Justice instead of the High Court.

The Associate Minister, Mark Mitchell, subsequently appointed AMINZ, which is already named in a number of pieces of existing legislation, to the new role.

A couple of exceptions allow for a party to apply to the court to appoint an arbitrator. These would be in cases where AMINZ fails to appoint an arbitrator within 30 days of receiving a request to do so, or where a dispute arises in respect of the appointment process that AMINZ uses.

AMINZ believes the process it already has in place should minimise any need to invoke the exception clauses.

The new role marks a significant step for the national institute.

“It’s an important role, but one which we’re pleased to have the system in place to accommodate,” says AMINZ President John Walton.

How does it work? First, a party or parties approach the Institute, providing information on the dispute. At this point, the executive director will liaise with members of the AMINZ appointments advisory panel, the AAP, who recommend to the executive director who should be appointed.

A number of factors are taken into account by the AAP including relevant experience, the complexity of the dispute, the amounts in dispute, preferences the parties may have and geographic location. The AAP prioritises its selections of who is most appropriate to appoint. The executive director then takes that advice and makes a determination of who to appoint, checking potential conflicts of interest and availability of that person.

An appointment will usually be made within three working days.

The 20-member appointments panel is a who’s-who of distinguished dispute resolution practitioners, including Sir Ian Barker QC, Wendy Miles QC and Sir David Williams QC. Particular attention was given to ensuring a diverse spread of members on the panel in order to ensure that applicants would know they were being well – and specifically – served.

The AAP is used for all AMINZ appointments, not just those arbitrator appointments pursuant to the Arbitration Act. Its membership comprises AMINZ members with suitable experience in one of a number of areas: commercial arbitration generally, mediation adjudications carried out pursuant to the Construction Contracts Act 2012, or rural dispute resolution. With the expertise and input of the AAP, comprised particularly for each appointment, AMINZ can make fair, transparent and appropriate appointments.

“The new legislation has been a great nod in the Institute’s direction, and with that privilege of course comes a lot of new responsibility,” Mr Walton says.

“We believe the system we have in place more than rises to the occasion.”

Deborah Hart is Executive Director of AMINZ. More information on the process is available at on the Appointment Requests tab.

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