People who use the district and high courts will be the hardest hit by proposed fee hikes as part of the Justice Ministry's first major cost overhaul since 2001.
According to a consultation paper launched yesterday, running the New Zealand court system cost taxpayers $88.8 million in the 2010 to 2011 financial year. Only 14 per cent of that was recovered through fees.
The ministry is looking to lift court fees by almost $8m, so it recovers a quarter of total costs, or $22.8m. These increases will only apply to the District Court, High Court, Court of Appeal, Employment Court and the Environment Court, where the Government has deemed costs recovery levels to be too low.
Fees for the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Maori Land Count were seen as "about right", with only minor adjustments to their cost structure.
In the discussion document, Court Minister Chester Burrows said the aim was to ensure that people using the civil court and tribunal system for personal gain, such as a financial settlement, bear the costs for doing so while still providing meaningful access to justice.
As such, users of the District and High Courts will be hit hardest if the proposal goes ahead, accounting for 95 per cent of the fee hike.
The civil dispute system will hike fees by 36 per cent to $5.3m, and civil enforcement proceedings will hike their user charges by 27 per cent to $2.3m.
High Court users will see a 37 per cent jump in costs to $13.9m.
The Employment Court and Environment Court would see fee hikes of 4.6 and 5 per cent respectively, but that that would put total cost recovery at the comparatively low levels of $150,000 and $530,000.
The ministry is also proposing that all fees be payable upfront, but said waiver mechanisms should be introduced for the Employment Court to render it consistent with all other courts.
Feedback on the changes is open until November 2, and the ministry said final changes are likely be implemented in the first half of next year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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