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 legal profession.

Current situation

20/09/2021: Auckland is at Alert Level 4 but will move to Alert Level 3 from 11:59 pm on Tuesday 21 September. The rest of the country is at Alert Level 2.  

Stay home where possible and follow the government’s guidance:

Update on the Courts

Manukau District Court

At midday, on Friday 17 September, a defendant who was in Police custody has since tested positive for COVID-19 made a brief appearance at the Manukau District Court in Auckland. 

Eight people in the courtroom have been advised to self-isolate and get tested. Anyone else who was in the building but not in the courtroom are not classed as contacts by the Ministry of Health.  

The entire court building is being cleaned and will open on Monday 19 September as usual.

Tauranga Court

The Tauranga court building was visited by a close contact of a COVID-positive essential worker on Monday 13 September. The close contact visited the court building during the day and after hours.  

If you were at the court during this time, please follow Ministry of Health’s advice to: 

Watch for symptoms for 14 days. 

If you get any symptoms, call Healthline at 0800 358 5453, get a test, and stay home. 

Stay home until you receive a negative result and it has been 24 hours since having any symptoms. 

Be assured your safety is paramount to us and we are continuing the same rigorous health and safety cleaning standards for the building, including bio-cleans of our areas where needed.  

This is a reminder to us all of how important it is that we follow the COVID-19 hygiene protocols: wear face coverings, scanning everywhere you go, keeping up physical distancing, and staying home if you are sick. 

Outside of Auckland jury trials in the District Court will take place in Alert Level 2. However, 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 Justiceon Monday 20 September. 

Update from Corrections

Prisons have suspended face-to-face visits by legal advisers during Alert Level 4. Visits can still take place by other means, such as over the phone, AVL and Jabber where available. More information on available communication methods is in the guidance section below.

Update from Family Court

Only priority proceedings are taking place in the Family Cour at Alert Levels 2 and 4.

There is updated information and guidance for parents and lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.

Check the level 4 protocol for the swearing of affidavits.

Update from Toitū Te Whenua (Land Information New Zealand)

LINZ has updated its website bringing together a range of information about its services during the current Covid-19 Alert Level restrictions.

Update from Employment Relations Authority

In-person investigations meetings have been postponed for Alert Level 4. For more information see our guidance section and visit the Authority’s website for the latest information.

Law Society offices and libraries

All Law Society offices and libraries outside of Auckland will open from Monday 13 September. In the meantime staff are working from home. Remote services are still operating. Please contact us at:

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

Manukau District Court

At midday, on Friday 17 September, a defendant who was in Police custody has since tested positive for COVID-19 made a brief appearance at the Manukau District Court in Auckland. 

Eight people in the courtroom have been advised to self-isolate and get tested. Anyone else who was in the building but not in the courtroom are not classed as contacts by the Ministry of Health.  

The entire court building is being cleaned and will open on Monday 19 September as usual. 

Tauranga Court

The Tauranga court building was visited by a close contact of a COVID-positive essential worker on Monday 13 September. The close contact visited the court building during the day and after hours.  

If you were at the court during this time, please follow Ministry of Health’s advice to: 

Watch for symptoms for 14 days. 

If you get any symptoms, call Healthline at 0800 358 5453, get a test, and stay home. 

Stay home until you receive a negative result and it has been 24 hours since having any symptoms. 

Be assured your safety is paramount to us and we are continuing the same rigorous health and safety cleaning standards for the building, including bio-cleans of our areas where needed.  

This is a reminder to us all of how important it is that we follow the COVID-19 hygiene protocols: wear face coverings, scanning everywhere you go, keeping up physical distancing, and staying home if you are sick. 

Outside of Auckland jury trials in the District Court will take place in Alert Level 2. However, 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 Monday 20 September.

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. 

Remote participation and remote viewing of hearings in the senior courts

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.

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.

Law Society services

Offices

Our Auckland office will remain closed throughout the duration of Level 4 and Level 3. Most of our staff are able to work at home and can provide services remotely.

All offices and libraries outside of Auckland will open to the public from Monday 13 September.

When visiting our office we would ask that you wear a facemask, scan in using the QR code for the NZ Covid Tracer App and keep a 2-metre distance from our staff. 

Not all our staff will be in the office at any one time so if you need to see someone specifically, please book an appointment with that person, or consider meeting via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. 

Libraries

Under Alert Level 3 the Auckland Library is closed to NZLS members. Library staff are working remotely and are able to assist you with any research needs.

Both Wellington and Canterbury libraries are staffed at Level 2. Lawyers are able to visit the libraries, but access is by card only. There is no after hours access at Level 2.

Library staff are able to assist lawyers across the country with document delivery and research needs. Please contact us at: 

Live web streams

The following Free live web streams (first broadcast during the 2020 lockdown) are available to watch on the ‘Free Recordings’ page on the CLE website:

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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