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Civil court fees discussion document

Civil court fees discussion document

Courts Minister Margaret Wilson welcomes the release of a consultation document on civil court fees and urges the legal profession, interest groups and the public to respond.

The consultation document is the second stage of work by an independent working party established in July 2001 to advise the Minister for Courts on the civil fees regime. The working party comprises representatives from the community, business and consumer organisations, and the legal profession.

Margaret Wilson said the consultation document canvasses a number of options for the structure and definition of court fees, including proposals for new fees for property relations applications in Family Courts and higher fees for applications to the Environment Court.

“The setting of court fees is a balancing exercise, on one hand protecting access to justice and on the other ensuring that individuals contribute appropriately to the cost of services,” Margaret Wilson said.

“It is a matter for careful consideration and analysis, and decisions will be better informed if those working at the coalface contribute at this stage.”

Margaret Wilson said the Government has made no decisions on any further changes to court fees and will approach the outcome of the working party’s consultation with an open mind, except in respect to two areas:

No fees will be introduced for applications to the Family Court under the Guardianship Act 1968 (covering custody, access and guardianship);

Tenancy Tribunal fees will not increase.

Margaret Wilson said the former was because the Government did not want financial considerations to deter court applications necessary to protect children, while the latter was a matter of long-standing Labour Party policy.

Submissions on the consultation document are due on June 27, and the working party will then report in approximately three months time.

Stage one of the review of civil fees examined how fees were set, and advocated a principled approach under which the public and private benefits obtained through the courts were reflected in fee levels. This approach meant no more than 50% of the costs in any jurisdiction were recovered, and differentiated between types of cases according to the level of public and private benefits obtained.

In October 2001 some fees decreased or remained the same (particularly those in the Disputes Tribunal), but the majority of fees were increased, including substantial increases in the High Court and Court of Appeal where the previous fees did not reflect actual costs.

However, at the same time the Government extended provisions to allow registrars in the District Court and Court of Appeal, as well as in the High Court, to waive fees in cases of hardship or for cases of public interest.

A copy of the consultation document is available by writing to the Strategic Policy Unit, Department for Courts, PO Box 2750, Wellington, or by phoning the Department on 04 918 8800, or on the Department’s website at http:// Submissions can be made until 5pm Friday 27 June 2003.

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