New Zealand Law Society - COVID-19 information

COVID-19 information

On this page you will find all the latest information about how New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 is impacting the legal profession. We will continue to update this page as alert levels change, and will provide regular updated advice from reputable sources for the law profession.

Current situation

Jury trials have resumed in the Auckland High Court, Auckland District Court and Manukau District Court.

All courts nationwide have arrangements to provide safe distancing for all participants including jurors, no matter where they are in the courthouse. These include Perspex screens placed within the jury box as an added level of protection for jurors in the Auckland area.

All people in Auckland courthouses are also asked wear to masks. Masks are provided at the security screening stations.

All offices of the Law Society are open with limited services. Please call ahead if you plan to visit.

Our libraries in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington are open but can only be accessed using a swipe card.

Government advice

The Government has issued the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020 to manage any further spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand. The Order includes a requirement during Alert Levels 2 and 3 for all businesses and services:

  • to display the official government QR code for the NZ COVID Tracer App, and
  • have systems and processes in place to otherwise support contact tracing for people who do not scan in with the NZ COVID Tracer app (such as a pen-and-paper register or a digital sign-in system).

These contact tracing requirements came into force at 11:59am on 19 August 2020.

If you have not already generated an official QR code poster for your premises, you will need to get your posters before this time through the webform at: https://qrform.tracing.covid19.govt.nz/. You need to create a separate poster for each of your premises or unique locations.

You can find further information about the QR codes on the Ministry of Health website.

Guidance for lawyers

When lawyers are essential lawyers

Lawyers are not essential workers unless they are undertaking essential work. The provision of legal services is essential to the effective functioning of the courts. Travel by lawyers for the purposes of attending to priority court proceedings is allowed. This includes travel to police stations and courts for the purposes of taking instructions from clients and attending hearings.

All lawyers should have received a letter via email from the Law Society to use if conducting essential work in Auckland. If you didn’t receive a letter and require one please email covid-19@lawsociety.org.nz.

Signing and witnessing of documents

The Law Society has received advice that lawyers can lawfully provide services at a client’s private dwelling or public place under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020 provided relevant infection control measures are in place and physical distancing is maintained at all times. In-person witnessing/signing of documents should be done as a last resort only. We have prepared guidance if you do need to conduct in-person witnessing/signing.

Wills, Oaths and Declarations

The Government made Immediate Modification Orders to the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957, the Wills Act 2007 and the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988 (Enduring Powers of Attorney) in response to the restrictions of COVID-19. These still apply. The Ministry of Justice has advice on their website here.

The legislation can be found here:

Property settlements

Our Property Law Section has issued guidance for lawyers whose clients are shifting into, out of and through Auckland.

Land Information New Zealand has provided a summary of its existing guidance regarding signing documents remotely and the modifications to deal with COVID-19 restrictions.

Tax

Inland Revenue has issued an update to tax agents, including a special report on the recently enacted COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Act (No 2) 2020.

Employment

The Employment Relations Authority has released guidance to deal with applications and investigations while Covid-19 Alert restrictions are in place. The Authority has also released health and safety guidance for in-person investigation meetings at Alert Level 2.

Courts

Jury trials have resumed in the Auckland High Court, Auckland District Court and Manukau District Court. There's more information in this media release on the Courts of New Zealand website.

The Ministry of Justice has released a letter to let the profession know of guidance to support the attendance of a person at court who is required to travel between Alert Levels. This encompasses lawyers and other court participants.

Principal Family Court Judge Jacquelyn Moran has released details of a new system for adoption applications in the Family Court for families in international surrogacy arrangements caught out by COVID red tape delays.

The High Court and District Court issued a letter to the profession on Thursday 13 August confirming Court protocols for Alert Levels 2 and 3. This contains changes to previous protocols that were used under the Alert Levels earlier this year.

The Chief Justice updated the profession on 12 August regarding the operation of the courts under COVID-19 alert level 3 and alert level 2. A copy of her letter is available on the Courts website.

The High Court has issued Guidelines for remote participation by witnesses in criminal hearings. The guidelines “outline practical considerations for judges and participants when considering and determining whether witnesses can, and if so, should, give evidence remotely in criminal trials”.

The Ministry of Justice has issued guidance in the form of frequently asked questions on procedures in the Youth Court under Alert Level 2 and Alert Level 3.

For the most up to date information on the operation of the Courts under COVID-19, please refer to the Courts of NZ website.

Law Society services

All offices of the Law Society are open with limited services. Please call ahead if you plan to visit.

Our Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Law Libraries are open but with some restrictions, for example entry is by card access only. Hand sanitizer and masks are available on site.

If you do not have an access card and wish to apply for one, please contact your local library.

There will be no after-hours access to the libraries until further notice.

Lawyers rooms/libraries which are situated in courthouses are accessible during the opening hours of the court. Hamilton branch library (which is in the branch office building) can be accessed with a door code from 7am-5.30pm. Please fill in the Contact Tracing Sheet. Contact the branch 07 838 0264 if you require the code.

Hand sanitiser and wipes are supplied and lawyers are responsible for wiping down the keyboards and monitors.

Please contact us with any research or document delivery requests at auckland@nzlslibrary.org.nz, wellington@nzlslibrary.org.nz or canterbury@nzlslibrary.org.nz or submit a request via the website.

Support for our members’ wellbeing

Our advice is to be guided by factual, up to date sources of information on the disease, such as the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation websites.

It is understandable that some in the profession, particularly those in close contact with the public on a day to day basis, may feel concerned or stressed.

Remember that the Legal Community Counselling Service provides the option for counselling via phone or videolink as well as face to face.

The Law Society’s Practising Well initiative provides access to other support and resources for lawyers.

Ministry of Health guidelines on managing your mental health are on the MOH website.

For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Ministry of Health’s Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please email Covid-19@lawsociety.org.nz

This page will be updated as we have more advice for members of the profession.

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