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Operations of the court systems

New Zealand is now at Level 4 on the four level alert system for Covid-19. This means that all organisations that do not provide essential services must close. The courts are considered an essential service, and as such, will remain operational albeit in a limited capacity.

To accommodate the Government’s restrictive measures in response to the pandemic, the Chief Justice has made announcements regarding numerous changes that will take place in operation of the court systems. Such changes include 1. only allowing priority proceedings to be heard (for example, proceedings affecting liberty of the individual or people’s safety and wellbeing); 2. only allowing hearings where time is of limited essence. Ordinary proceedings are adjourned, possibly for the duration of the pandemic; 3. facilitating remote trials such as using audio-visual link to conduct hearings to avoid the need for people to attend in person. There are now designated hygiene officers to each court to ensure the increased hygiene standards are maintained; and 4. allowing filing of court documents by email as opposed to in person.

It appears likely that if the lockdown continues for an extended period of time, further changes to court rules and procedures are likely to follow.