The Disputes Tribunal has been at the forefront of dispute resolution in New Zealand since with around 20,000 disputes being handled annually by the Tribunal.
Its speed, low cost and efficiency has become something of a tribute to the system that handles such a vast number of different disputes annually. As an informal body that is fast and effective, its attractiveness for dispute resolution is undoubted and growing.
And last year it became even more significant as on 29 October 2019 the maximum value for claims allowed in the Disputes Tribunal increased to $30,000, with no option to increase the threshold by agreement (as was previously the case).
The decisions, which can involve the making of orders, are binding, although rehearings or appeals can be sought, with the judgements
enforceable in the same way as a civil claim in the District Court.
And in many ways it is the Disputes Tribunal system that may be ‘showing up’ the courts as they maintain their ability to quickly, efficiently, effectively and less formally address disputes that confront New Zealanders daily.
Apart from their informality, the case turnaround is normally six weeks or less and to file a claim for up to $30,000 is just $180.
The Dispute Tribunal Referee
And now the Ministry of Justice is seeking applicants for referees for roles in the Disputes Tribunal network, including seeking positions in Hawkes Bay, Auckland, Whangarei and Christchurch.
Although many referees have training in dispute resolution or hold law degrees neither is necessary to secure a role as a referee. Referees are chosen from the community, primarily for their maturity and life experience.
The Disputes Tribunal is more flexible than the Courts so far as the type of decisions that the referee can make, which is largely done on the basis of fairness. However, unlike the courts, the Tribunal is not bound by strict legal rights or technicalities, which is a key factor in the attractiveness of the system for those seeking dispute resolution.
There are limits on the types of disputes that can be heard by the Disputes Tribunal, as it is unable to deal with issues relating to tenancy, intellectual property, rates or taxes, welfare benefits, ACC payments, employment, wills, ownership of land, the care of children, or relationship property.
>> Disputes Tribunal role – Auckland
However while many of those issues have their own tribunals or courts to deal with, there remain a vast number of areas that require the involvement of the Disputes Tribunal.
The role of the Disputes Tribunal referee remains – and increasingly develops into one of the most important justice-dispensing roles in the New Zealand legal system.
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