Tribunal Reform in New Zealand
In November 2006 the New Zealand Law Commission and the Ministry of Justice launched a joint programme of tribunal reform in New Zealand. The aim of the project was to “recommend a structure for existing tribunals as well as a framework for the establishment of tribunals in the future”. As I write this, the whisper from the Beehive suggests that the change in government means that the tribunal reform project is to be put on ice. This is a disappointing development but it should not surprise us. Although the tribunal system in New Zealand has been ripe for reform almost since the first tribunal was established, successive attempts to introduce coherence to the “system” have foundered in the difficult waters of the legislative process. From their humble (and relatively late) beginnings in 1908, New Zealand's system of tribunals now occupies a significant (perhaps even pre-eminent) position in New Zealand's system of justice, particularly in the field of Administrative Law. Despite this, tribunals remain a largely forgotten element of the wider legal system. Few student texts give much mentioned of them and they remain very much an academic and political backwater. It should be no surprise then that, given their astonishingly low profile in New Zealand, tribunals remain largely un-loved, unnoticed and un-reformed institutions. This paper from which it comes aims to at least partially fill the lacuna in New Zealand's legal literature by examining the current system in the light of the Law Commission's proposals.