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Cosgrove: Federation of NZ Justices' Associations

Hon Clayton Cosgrove

MP for Waimakariri
Minister for Building Issues
Minister of Statistics
Associate Minister of Finance
Associate Minister of Justice
Associate Minister of Immigration

Saturday 4 March 2006


Address by the Associate Minister of Justice Hon Clayton Cosgrove to the Royal Federation of NZ Justices' Associations 78th Annual Conference

Venue and time: Shantytown Miners Hall, Greymouth

Time: 9.15am, Saturday 4 March, 2006

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, members of the 29 Associations of the Royal Federation, the Royal Federation's President Allan Spence and Vice President Gavin Kerr, the Royal Federation's Registrar Alan Hart, Corrections Minister and West Coast MP the Hon Damien O'Connor, the Chairman of Parliament's Law & Order Select Committee MP and JP Martin Gallagher, Chair of the Justice & Electoral Select Committee MP Lynne Pillay, His Worship the Mayor of the Grey District Tony Kokshoorn JP, and our visiting friend from Australia, Mr Colin Beauchamp, president of the Western Australia Justices Association, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you at the 78th Annual Conference of the Royal Federation.

The very fact that your Federation - an organisation founded and supported by volunteers - organises an annual conference is a demonstration of the commitment of this country's Justices of the Peace.

And the fact so many of you have come to Greymouth this weekend for the occasion is a real testimony to your personal commitment - and, of course, a testimony to the pleasures of the Coast.

Many of you will know that on Tuesday of this week I was in Hamilton to officially launch the Federation’s new training CD-ROM – which I will talk more about later.

We held the event in Hamilton so I could take the opportunity to honour Mr "Mick" Goldsbro’, New Zealand’s longest warranted - and oldest - JP. It was a privilege to meet Mr Goldsbro’, who is still a live-wire at the age of 101.

Mr Goldsbro’ was appointed as a Justice of the Peace in 1940, and actively served communities in the Waikato region for the next 30 years. As a judicial Justice, he dealt with some matters that seem a world away from today's society, such as prosecutions for makers of "sly-grog" in what was then the "dry" King Country District.

Also present for the launch was one of our youngest JPs – 33-year-old Karen Hattaway from Manukau, Auckland – who was appointed last year. Her enthusiasm and passion for serving her community through her JP role is heartening, and proof of the strong emerging next generation of JPs.

Mick Goldsbro’s active service as a JP actually ended before Ms Hattaway was born.

Mind you, times haven't changed as much as some might imagine, as the majority of JP duties, including witnessing documents, taking declarations and issuing search warrants, remain as necessary now as back then.

Many of you will know Mr Goldsbro’ and I’d like to share with you a short video clip of the event in Hamilton.

(Intro video clip)

It was a most enjoyable event and it was a delight to talk with Mick Goldsbro’ about his experiences as a JP.

Of course, Justices of the Peace have a long and proud history in this country. As you would know, the first ever JP in New Zealand was appointed in 1814.

One hundred and ninety-two years is a very long time in terms of this nation’s history. Even Mick Goldsbro’ missed the first 126 years of that.

This week’s official public launch of the CD-ROM training package – Guide to Ministerial Duties for Justices of the Peace - is a further sign that the JP system is keeping abreast of the times - as you must if you are to continue to be in touch with your communities.

The new CD-ROM, a joint project between the Royal Federation and the Ministry of Justice, will complement the existing training regime where senior JPs in each region train new JPs.

This CD-ROM provides greater consistency in JP training, and allows trainees to complete the training modules when and where it suits them, and at their own pace.

I am confident the computer-based training approach will enhance the level of preparedness and professionalism of JPs in all parts of the country. It is a sound investment and one I am proud to be associated with.

I want to reiterate my commitment to training - both initial training for new JPs and ongoing training for all JPs - as a key to ensuring continuing excellent service to the New Zealand public. My desire in launching the new CD-ROM was a demonstration of that commitment.

I acknowledge that the Royal Federation has approached the Ministry regarding further funding for training, as well advocating for remuneration for judicial Justices.

I will come back to these points in a moment.

But first we must remember, of course, that the Justice of the Peace system is an institution built on volunteering. Yours is a proud history of service to the community, and you play a valuable and vital role in communities throughout New Zealand.

I acknowledge, that today peoples' ability to give freely of their time is more difficult than ever. The pressures of modern life means, for example, that a one-income household is becoming less common, and with most adults working, many community groups that rely on volunteers such as sports teams, charitable organisations, and local fundraisers are finding it harder get by.

In today's environment, JPs are even more appreciated, since the vital services you provide are voluntary. It is not a paid job - although, as you know, certain costs such as travel and meal expenses for judicial Justices are remunerated.

That said, the Ministry of Justice plans a wide review of the management of resources in the criminal summary jurisdiction where JPs operate in the Courts. This review will examine a variety of issues, and I will remain in close contact with the Royal Federation on any developments pertaining to JPs.

I want to talk for a moment about the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill.

As you will be aware, all of us would have liked to have seen the Bill before Parliament by now. It is a relatively short bill to amend the Justices of the Peace Act 1957 in three key areas - training, discipline and retirement.

I want to make it clear that I have never expressed the view (as has been reported) that the Bill had "no likelihood" of being introduced to the House in the foreseeable future. Quite the contrary in fact, as I have been battling for this legislation to progress since I took office last October as Associate Justice Minister.

I am pleased to announce, I have successfully gained a spot for the Bill on the government's legislative programme for this year. This is a vital first step toward its enactment.

It is my intention to have the Bill introduced, have its First Reading and be referred to Select Committee for consideration and submission, and possibly even be reported back to the House, this year. This is by no means guaranteed, but I can promise you that I will work hard to achieve this outcome.

As I mentioned earlier, the revised priorities of the Government, especially in light of the priorities of our support parties, places pressure on the Government's legislative programme. And in this MMP environment, it is necessary to gain the Parliamentary support of the other parties in the House to pass the legislation. It's not like to old First-Past-the-Post days.

I am still looking at other options.

I have asked the Justice Ministry to find out whether some of the provisions of the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill could be included in the annual Statutes Amendment Bill or SAB. These Bills are designed to achieve technical, brief and non-controversial amendments to Acts. And clauses can be struck out if a single Member objects to them during consideration by the Committee of the whole House.

Some of the relatively non-controversial provisions pertaining to retirement and training could possibly secure early passage through Parliament in the SAB.

However, the risk of proceeding with this option is that it will not progress the part of the Bill which establishes a more comprehensive disciplinary regime, and a tighter framework for upholding standards and accountability of JPs.

Therefore I am keeping both options open and will keep in regular contact with the Royal Federation on progress. Of course, the timeframe for progressing either Bill depends to a large extent on the co-operation of other political parties.

Returning to the issue of additional funding for training of JPs.

The enhanced training proposed in the Justice of the Peace Amendment Bill comes at a price. It's an investment we think is needed, and is likely to be met through the Ministry of Justice's existing baseline funding.

In addition to the new CD-ROM, I see it as a very positive move that Justices wishing to sit on the bench are now required to complete the Judicial Studies course at The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. Of course, the cost of the course is reimbursed upon its successful completion.

Finally, I want to end where I began. I never cease to be impressed and grateful for your commitment. And I am pleased to report that the Justice of the Peace system in New Zealand is in a healthy state, thanks to you all.

There are currently about 10,700 of you - one for about every 400 of our people. I receive between 300 and 350 nominations annually.

Another positive trend is the changing face of JPs, which better reflects the increasingly diverse ethnic make up of our society. Equal numbers of men and women were appointed as JPs last year, and of the latest group of 44 nominations I have received, seven have a language other than English as their first language. If warranted these people will be equipped to provide services to members of the community who might otherwise have difficulty in accessing those services.

And of that group, at least 12 of the nominees were under the age of 50. This won’t have much impact on the average age of JPs, which is now 54, compared to 52, five years ago. However it does suggest the spirit of community service is alive and well in New Zealand. These nominees also come from a wide range of career backgrounds, including the health, education, tourism, industrial and aged-care sectors.

That’s not a bad snapshot of the Justices of the Peace family in this country right now: skilled, experienced and respected lay people who make an invaluable contribution to the link between the justice system and the wider community.

To conclude, I thank you for your commitment, your strong work ethic, and your community spirit. I wish you a successful, enjoyable and productive conference.


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