• Environment Court Update on proposed Court restructuring

    Please see the following message from RMLA President Maree Baker-Galloway:

    As some of you will be aware, the Ministry of Justice has been consulting on potential operational staff restructuring affecting most New Zealand Courts.

    Concern has been expressed about the potential implications of this restructuring for the Environment Court and the RMLA made a submission expressing its concerns.

    Principal Environment Judge Newhook has been liaising with relevant officials and has provided the RMLA with an update on the communications and outcomes thus far so it can be shared with Resource Management practitioners. An update from His Honour can be found both below and by clicking here:

     

    Proposal by Ministry of Justice to Undertake Operational Restructuring 

    [1] In June this year the CEO of the Ministry of Justice/Secretary for Justice issued a proposal heralding very significant staff restructuring throughout most New Zealand courts.  This was Stage 2 of a process that earlier in the year had seen significant changes in senior management roles in the Ministry. 

    [2] The June proposal signalled significantly altered lines of reporting between national court managers and senior officials, but of greatest concern to the Environment Court, was a proposal for rotation of staff amongst the registries of many courts to offer up-skilling and provide greater job satisfaction. 

    [3] It was of concern to the Environment Judges that there had been no consultation at all with the Bench. This meant that there seemed to be no recognition let alone proper appreciation, of the highly successful regime in place for over a decade in which skilled and dedicated staff, often law graduates, filled key support roles.  A further problem emerged that while the proposal was also pitched to enhance services to parties in court cases, RMLA and the law societies, when approached by us, advised that they had not been consulted at all. 

    [4] Strong submissions were made against this aspect of the proposal by the Bench and those organisations, seeking to protect the successful operation of the Environment Court registries. 

    [5] The Secretary of Justice has now advised in writing that he has no desire to reduce the level of critical support received by the Environment Court Bench, and that the Ministry intends to continue to provide it with the specialist staff, with appropriate qualifications and experience, needed for it to meet its statutory obligations.  

    [6] The Environment Court Bench wishes to acknowledge the support of RMLA and the law societies, and to assure them and others that it wishes to harness past and present innovations and build on them in the quest to enhance efficiency and at the same time provide good access to justice for all parties. 

    Laurie Newhook

    Principal Environment Judge

    25 August 2016