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Increases In Court Fees Harmful

NEW ZEALAND BAR ASSOCIATION

MEDIA RELEASE Tuesday 16 October 2001

Increases In Court Fees Harmful And Contrary To Advice

The New Zealand Bar Association remains most concerned at the Government’s decision to maintain very significant increases in civil court fees, in some cases by more than 300%.

The latest decision flies in the face of measured and sensible advice and can only be seen as unconscionable revenue grabbing. The Bar Association intends to pursue a challenge to the regulations introducing these new court fees, with Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee.

When the Government first announced its intention to increase court fees from 1 July 2001, it was met with significant protests that higher court fees would create a new barrier to access to justice. The increases were deferred and the Government appointed a working party to consider the impact of increased court fees.

That working party, with broad sectional representation, and after extensive work, recommended that the proposed increases were unacceptable and should not proceed. The working party recognised that access to justice is a fundamental right and although there should be some private contribution to the costs of the courts, there is a larger public responsibility.

The NZBA sees in the Government’s rejection of those views a conscious preparedness to impede access to the courts for the sake of greater cost recoveries. Given the importance of access to the courts, this has serious constitutional consequences.

The impact of this new barrier to access to justice will not be significantly lessened by certain exemptions or by the enactment of the Court Fees (Waivers) Act. On any view, the harm done to the New Zealand justice system far outweighs the relatively modest increase in cost recoveries that will be achieved.

ENDS

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