New Zealand Law Society - COVID-19 information

COVID-19 information

The latest information on the Law Society's response to COVID-19, and New Zealand's response to COVID-19

Overview on Law Society Premises and Contracted Events Venues

From 3 December 2021, all Law Society premises and contracted events venues will grant immediate entry only to those who declare their vaccination status and can show proof of vaccination (via a current Vaccination Pass or certificate).

This will apply to all visitors, lawyers, contractors, staff, volunteers and suppliers who wish to enter.

It affects events and meetings, and any other request to gain entry.

It affects Law Society Libraries, and any contracted events venues where Law Society events are held.

The Law Society recognises that visitors to our premises have the right to choose to be unvaccinated.  Unvaccinated visitors will be asked to make arrangement to meet virtually (or can request an appointment for a safe, face to face meeting if needed).

A poster will display at the entrance of the premises showing who to contact to make this arrangement, should you need to.

QR code scanning will also be required on entry and anyone entering will also be required to follow Government protocols in the ‘traffic light’ system.

Read our COVID-19 Response Access to Premises and Contracted Events Venues Policy.

Read our overall Protocols:

Read our Libraries Protocols:

Read our Events Protocols.

Our main consideration in introducing these policies and protocols is your wellbeing and safety. 

COVID-19 Response Policy - Access to Premises and Contracted Event Venues

The position of the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa (Law Society) regarding our COVID-19 response and vaccination for people who access Law Society Services. 

Read our COVID-19 Response Access to Premises and Contracted Events Venues Policy.

COVID-19 Response Protocols - Red, Orange, Green; Libraries; Events

Under the COVID-19 Protection Framework and Law Society COVID-19 Response policy restrictions and requirements will apply differently to fully vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors.

Read the Protocols:

Current situation

See the latest guidance on the Government's traffic light system and what this will mean for different regions from 3 December 2021 on the Government's Covid-19 page:  

Update on the Courts

Carrying out work where health services are provided

From Tuesday 16 November 2021, the COVID-19 Public Health Response (vaccinations) Order 2021 requires that people who carry out work where health services are provided to members of the public must be either fully vaccinated or have had the first vaccination dose.

Lawyers attending Mental Health Assessment (MHA) hearings at inpatient units and health service locations (eg facilities run by a DHB) are included in the scope of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (vaccinations) Order 2021.

Read more on the Ministry of Justice website.

Court operations update

The Chief Justice announced today that jury trials will not go ahead in December 2021 in the following courts:

  • Auckland District Court
  • Manukau District Court and
  • Hamilton District Court.

Kaitaia District Court will join all other courts in Northland operating at Alert Level 2 on Friday 12 November.

Read the full statement from the Chief Justice

COVID-19 related queries

For COVID-19 queries related to the legal profession please email: 
Covid-19@lawsociety.org.nz

Please refer to the guidance for lawyers section below for further information on these updates.

Guidance for lawyers on travelling for essential work

Alert Level 4

At Alert Level 4 everyone should work from home. Travel for the purposes of attending to priority court proceedings is allowed, including travel to police stations and courts for the purposes of taking instructions from clients and attending hearings.

We have worked with the Ministry of Justice and NZ Police to agree the following guidance:

If a lawyer is involved in a priority proceeding, as provided for in the COVID-19 Court protocols, it is permitted (and considered to be essential travel) for the lawyer to travel to their usual place of business to retrieve and uplift files necessary for the progression of the permitted court proceedings.

Please check with the court if you are unsure if your matter is a priority proceeding.

Alert Level 3

At Alert Level 3, everyone should work from home if they can. Businesses can operate, but with restrictions. This includes physical distancing, having extra hygiene measures and contactless options for ordering, pick-up, delivery and payment.

Clients cannot come onto your premises.

For more information check the government’s guidance on doing business at Alert Level 3

Alert Level 2

At Alert Level 2, all businesses can operate and have clients on their premises if they can do so safely. All workers should keep at least 1 metre apart, where possible, and 2 metres apart from clients.

Businesses must keep an updated record of people who enter their premises. This means displaying an NZ COVID Tracer QR code in a prominent place at or near the main entrance. You also need to offer customers and visitors a way to manually sign in.

For more information check the governments guidance on doing business at Alert Level 2.

Travel for counsel

It is the Chief Justice’s expectation that counsel will not travel across the border between Alert Level areas around Auckland. If counsel identifies a need to do so, they should raise the issue with the presiding judge.

Courts, Corrections and Parole

Court operations update

11/11/2021: The Chief Justice announced today that jury trials will not go ahead in December 2021 in the following courts:

  • Auckland District Court
  • Manukau District Court and
  • Hamilton District Court.

Kaitaia District Court will join all other courts in Northland operating at Alert Level 2 on Friday 12 November.

Read the full statement from the Chief Justice

Waikato Court operations update

4/11/2021: Waikato is currently at Alert Level 3, step 2. This position will be reviewed on Monday 8 November.

The Chief Justice announced today that no jury trials will be held in the Hamilton District Court in November 2021.

The Hamilton High Court has two jury trials scheduled to commence in November - the first on 22 November, the second on 29 November. These jury trials will commence as scheduled if the restrictions in place at the time allow.

Following the move to Alert Level 3 for the northern area of Northland on 2 November, the Kaitaia District Court is now operating according to its protocol for Alert Level 3.

Read the full statement from the Chief Justice

Update from Auckland Supreme Court 

27/10/2021: Due to the continued heightened alert levels in Auckland, the Supreme Court will not be sitting in Auckland as planned in the week of 15 November 2021.

Read the full statement from the Chief Justice

Protecting prisoners against COVID-19

The Department for Corrections has released information on its systems to protect prisons from COVID-19. For the release or bail of prisoners across the Auckland alert level boundaries, Corrections has outlined the requirements, systems, and processes pertaining to cross-boundary releases put in place to comply with relevant Health Orders. 

See the latest information from Corrections

Please note that the situation is evolving and there is potential for parts of these processes to be changed in future. 

Cross-Alert Level Boundary Travel (Guidance for Participants)

Heads of Bench have provided guidance to Judges to be used when considering whether to grant permission for participants in a hearing to travel into a different alert level region to enable an in-person appearance.

Read the full guidance for participants text on the Courts of New Zealand website.

Northland Court operations: Alert Level 2 

The Chief Justice has released guidance on the operation of courts in Northland at Alert Level 2. Jury trials in the Whangarei District Court may take place from Wednesday 20 October. In line with the District Court Alert Level 2 protocol, the presiding judge will decide on a caseby-case basis whether a trial can proceed taking into account the individual circumstances of the case. 

There are no jury trials scheduled for Kaikohe District Court for this week.

For more information read the guidance on the Courts of New Zealand website.

Waikato Courts

The Chief Justice today announced that all Waikato courts will operate under the Alert Level 3 protocols, from 11.59pm Sunday 3 October.

This applies to the following courts:

  • Hamilton High Court and District Court
  • Huntly District Court
  • Morrinsville District Court
  • Te Awamutu District Court
  • Te Kuiti District Court
  • Thames District Court.

No new jury trials will begin during Alert Level 3 in any of the District Courts in Waikato or in Hamilton High Court. Access to courthouses is limited during Alert Level 3. To the extent possible, all hearings will be conducted remotely. Counsel are expected to attend remotely, if at all practicable.

Travel for court hearings across boundary not expected
The Chief Justice confirms that defendants (including those in custody), prosecutors, counsel and witnesses are not expected to travel out of or into that part of the Waikato region affected by today’s Alert Level 3 announcement to attend an in-person hearing while the area remains at Alert Level 3, unless it is determined by the presiding judge that it is in the public interest to do so.

The same instruction remains in place in respect of the Auckland boundary. Any counsel or any other person who believes they need to travel across the boundary for court purposes should seek the direction of the presiding judge. If you are unsure how to do this, contact 0800 COURTS.

Read the full statement from the Chief Justice on the Courts of New Zealand website.

All courts in Northland and Waikato are operating to their Alert Level 3 protocols while those areas remain at Alert Level 3. Courts will operate to the extent they can by remote means as local conditions and capacity allow.

Jury trials have been suspended in Auckland for the rest of October. While all or part of the Northland and Waikato regions are at Alert Level 3, no new jury trials will commence in that region. If Northland or Waikato moves to Alert Level 2 during the week of 11 October, jury trials would be permitted under the Courts’ Alert Level 2 protocols. However, in Alert Level 2 judges will decide on a case-by-case basis whether a trial can proceed. Any jury trials that cannot safely be accommodated at Delta Level 2 will be adjourned or stood down.

In the interests of health and safety, no new jury trials will begin during Alert Level 3 or 4 in the District Court or the High Court.

The latest information on court protocols was released in a statement from the Chief Justice on Sunday 10 October.

Information on protocols in the District can be found on the Courts of New Zealand website. 

No new jury trials will begin during COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4 in the High Court or District Court. 

At Alert Level 3 and 4, High Court business will be conducted to the extent possible by remote participation including AVL, VMR, MS Teams, audio link or other technology. You can find the Protocol for Alert Level 3 and 4 on the Courts of New Zealand website. 

For full details of Court protocols please refer to the latest communication from the Chief Justice on the Courts of New Zealand website. 

Travel for court hearings across Alert Level 3 boundary

Hearings that require travel across the Alert Level 3 boundary will only proceed if it is determined by the presiding judge that it is in the public interest to do so. The presiding judge will consider this on a case-by-case basis.

Any counsel or person who believes they need to travel across the boundary for court purposes should seek the direction of the presiding judge.

Information for prosecutors and Justice Sector Agencies – travel of defendants bailed from the alert level 3 area to a lower alert level area.

Remote participation and remote viewing of hearings in the senior courts

In the interests of health and safety, media are asked not to attend court in person during Alert Level 3 and instead to attend by remote viewing. If remote viewing is not available, please contact the registry concerned.

Courts of New Zealand have updated their protocols to include provision for using Microsoft Teams remote technology in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court.

Filing and payment of fees

The courts will continue to receive filing of court documents and payment of fees in all proceedings, in accordance with usual arrangements for electronic filing and payment. Parties can File and Pay online.

Courts (including registry counters) will be closed to the public. Individual courts may have arrangements for filing of documents by drop-box – see the courts’ protocol for further details.

Update from Corrections

Prisons have suspended face-to-face visits by legal advisers. Visits can still take place by other means, such as over the phone, AVL and Jabber where available.

Lawyers and prisoners can still also communicate via post, courier and email in line with the usual processes.

All prison sites will accept email communications, provided that emails are:

  • Sent to an official prison email address.
  • Sent from a recognised email address linked to the law firm, practice or organisation that is verifiable.
  • Sent with the following subject title: *Legally privileged correspondence/documents* [Prisoner SURNAME, FIRST NAME], [PRN and/or DOB], [UNIT if known].
  • Comprised of a cover letter and attachment(s) to total no more than 20 double sided pages.

Lawyers should please contact the relevant prison by phone if they do not already have a contact email address or to arrange a virtual visit by AVL or Jabber. A full list of current email addresses will be provided in the coming days.

Parole Board Hearings

For the rest of the week New Zealand Parole Board will take place via audio visual link or conference call. If necessary, counsel impacted by the change of alert levels should contact Board administrators to connect to hearings.

Family

Update on the Family Court

At Alert Level 2 the Family Court remains an essential service. Under Alert Level 2 the Court will continue to undertake priority work, such as box work and without notice applications as examples, but also intends to undertake all previously scheduled work.

Priority Proceedings at Alert Level 4

  • Applications for Compulsory Treatment Orders, IDCCR, Protection Orders, Without Notice Interim Parenting Orders (COCA), Without Notice Custody Orders (Oranga Tamariki); Welfare Guardianship or Property Orders (PPPR).
  • Any other application considered by a judge to warrant an urgent hearing.

Update on shared parenting

Updated information and guidance for parents and lawyers can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

Check the guidance on shared parenting released by Principal Family Court Judge Jackie Moran on 24 March 2020.

Swearing of Affidavits

Check the level 4 protocol for the swearing of affidavits.

In short, the protocol says:

Unsworn affidavits

If parties are not able to sign affidavits or swear them in front of an independent lawyer or registrar, they will be accepted for filing by the Court and referred to a Judge for directions.

If a lawyer is acting, and it is a without notice application, the court will be assisted by the lawyer acting including in the requisite memorandum certification to the following effect:

"The affidavit was prepared in accordance with the deponent's specific instructions. It was read to them or an electronic version provided to them.The deponent confirmed that they fully understood the affidavit, and that the contents of it were true and correct."

This can also be used for on notice applications when time is of the essence, if affidavits cannot be sworn, with the certification replacing the deponent's signature and jurat.

Alternatively, a memorandum of counsel should be filed:

(i) confirming that the document contains the same evidentiary matter as the affidavit that the intending deponent would have sworn to or affirmed had an emergency not existed; and

(ii) undertaking that an affidavit containing the same evidentiary matter as that presented for filing will be filed as soon as circumstances reasonably permit.

Property settlements

Update from Toitu Te Whenua (Land Information New Zealand)

See the LINZ website for updated information about its services during the current Covid-19 Alert Level restrictions.

ANZ – guidance for lawyers

ANZ has released guidance for lawyers, outlining what the bank’s requirements are for Alert Levels 4 and 3.

Update on “working days”

The Law Society’s Property Law Section (PLS) has fielded a few queries over recent days on the interpretation of “working days” under the current Alert Level 4 restrictions in the ADLS-REINZ Agreement for Sale and Purchase.

Unless a contract has a Covid clause in it that amongst other things amends the definition of “working day”, then the fact we are at Alert Level 4 does not stop a working day continuing to be a working day. 

Being at Alert Level 4 may create difficulties and delays for one or more parties to an agreement and our advice for lawyers is to assist their clients to work through those matters in good faith where possible.

Free webinar

A free webinar (from March 2020) is available on the CLE website covering property matters during lockdown. This was a Q and A session with the former Chair of the Property Law Section Duncan Terris and the Registrar General of Land Robbie Muir.

Watch the webinar

Update from Ministry of Justice

Read the Ministry’s guidance for lawyers on property sales and settlements during Covid-19

Wills, EPAs, 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.

Read the advice on the Ministry of Justice website, download an opinion and download a template certificate.

The legislation can be found here:

Epidemic Preparedness (Oaths and Declarations Act 1957) Immediate Modification Order 2020

Epidemic Preparedness (Wills Act 2007—Signing and Witnessing of Wills) Immediate Modification Order 2020

Epidemic Preparedness (Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988—Enduring Powers of Attorney) Immediate Modification Order 2020

Employment

Update from Employment Relations Authority

In-person investigations meetings

In person investigation meetings are postponed for the duration of Alert Level 4. For regions served by the Wellington and Christchurch offices, subject to health and safety, venue and travel considerations, in-person investigations meetings will recommence on 13 September 2021.

Where appropriate the Authority may continue investigations of some matters via teleconference, audio-visual link or by considering written evidence and written submissions only.  

For more information see our guidance section and visit the Authority’s website for the latest information.

Adjourned investigation meetings

All postponed investigation meetings will be placed on the Authority prioritised waitlist. Parties and representatives will be contacted by the Authority when it is ready to proceed to investigate their matter.

Lodging new applications

Parties and representatives are encouraged to lodge new applications to the Authority online or as an attachment to an email.

Case management conferences

Authority Members will convene case management conferences by telephone with parties or their representatives to discuss arrangements for dealing with new applications.

Support for lawyers’ wellbeing

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 Ministry of Health 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.

Now also might be the time to consider mentoring. Our Mentoring Programme uses an online platform called MentorLoop, which matches mentors and mentees based on their profiles.

The Programme is free to join, to get started:

  1. email mentoring@lawsociety.org.nz for more information
  2. you will be sent details of how to sign up to MentorLoop and will be asked to agree to the Terms and Conditions, and Code of Conduct
  3. create your profile by answering a series of questions about yourself; every fortnight MentorLoop matches mentors with mentees, and you will be notified if you have been matched with someone.

Questions or concerns

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 with any further advice for lawyers.

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 if alert levels change and will provide regular updated advice from reputable sources for the law profession.

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