Making a claim at the Disputes Tribunal – How a lawyer can help


Although a party cannot be legally represented in the Disputes Tribunal hearing, a lawyer can still assist parties by giving them guidance; drafting Disputes Tribunal claim forms; drafting responses to a claim made against a party; and preparing briefs of evidence on behalf of a party before the hearing. It is important to be fully prepared before a party makes a claim at the Disputes Tribunal; after a party receives a claim made against them; and before a party represents themselves at a Tribunal hearing. A good claim, or defence, can make a big difference.

Disputes Tribunal claims
The Disputes Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear claims regarding disputed amounts up to $15,000.00, or $20,000.00 if both parties agree.

Many types of disputes are brought to the Disputes Tribunal. Some examples include whether certain works have been done properly; loss of/damage to property; whether a contract has been completed; whether the goods you purchased were what you asked for; and the list continues.

However, the Disputes Tribunal does not deal with claims concerning parenting (care of children); relationship property; Wills; land ownership; trade secrets; intellectual property (such as copy right); value of goodwill of a business; or benefits, taxes, ACC rates.

Dispute Tribunal Process

Benefits of using the Disputes Tribunal process
   · Both parties have a chance to be heard;
   · Cost and time efficient;
   · Private and informal;
   · Culturally sensitive (interpreters are available);
   · Effective resolution process sanctioned by the Courts;
   · If location is an issue, the hearing can be heard via video-conference.

At the hearing
The hearing provides the claimant and the respondent a chance to be heard. Both parties give their account of the matter at hand, providing all evidence and law which they have to support their side of the story.

No legal representation is allowed at this stage of the process – both parties represent themselves. However, a lawyer can help parties to prepare for the hearing.

A referee determines the outcome of the matter after considering what both parties have submitted.

If either party is not satisfied with the resolution of the dispute, the unsatisfied party has a chance to apply to have the decision appealed to the District Court within 28 days of the hearing. That party must believe they have good grounds to appeal the decision and provide valid reasons why the decision should be appealed in their application.

Further, if a party believes that the hearing was conducted in an unfair or prejudiced manner; that party can also apply to appeal the decision to the District Court within 28 days of the hearing.

If an order made by a referee is not complied with, a party can apply to have the order enforced.

How a lawyer can help
While neither of the parties is represented by a lawyer at the hearing, the matter is determined by a referee (similar to a judge) who makes a binding decision. The referee makes their decision based on the relevant law and how well each party conveys their position in relation to the law. This is where the assistance of a lawyer can make a significant difference to the outcome of the matter.

A lawyer can help a party outline their position in relation to the law and advise them on their best arguments.

A lawyer can also assist a party draft and file a claim at the Disputes Tribunal, respond to a claim made against them at the Disputes Tribunal, and help them prepare for the Disputes Tribunal hearing.

If you have any questions about the Dispute Resolution process or if you require assistance regarding a Disputes Tribunal claim please contact solicitor Ellen Harbidge on 09 837 6890 or email

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