The court process of resolving disputes is currently undergoing substantive changes.  New District Court rules have been drafted and are expected to come into force on 1 November 2009.  The rules change the process of resolving disputes with the focus now being on settling disputes by alternative dispute resolution.

Parties will soon be obliged to undertake alternative dispute resolution methods to resolve their dispute, with the option of court proceedings being the last resort.

Here are some common forms of alternative dispute resolution that may be suitably used to reach a resolution:


A  contractual method of resolving disputes.  Parties to a contract include a clause that provides that if a dispute arises between the parties they agree to have the dispute decided by an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators.  The award made is binding on all parties and is enforceable as a judgment of the court.

The parties pay the arbitrator but the advantage is often specialised knowledge (say in a building dispute) and a quicker and private hearing.  Lawyers are usually involved in the process.  However, arbitration generally offers a cheaper method of resolving disputes that court litigation.  Arbitrations are not open to the public.


Is where an independent third party assists the parties involved in a dispute to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution.  Mediation is included in a number of legislative dispute resolution processes such as the Employment and Family Courts, Residential Tenancies and Resource Management.

Parties to mediation do not need to agree on all issues for the mediation to be successful.  If there are multiple issues parties may agree to dispose of some issues but not others and decisions can be made as to how disputes will be handled between the parties in the future.

The Employment Mediation service is provided free of cost.  However, if a private mediator is used this will be paid by the parties. Mediations are quick to arrange and are not open to the public.  They can also provide more remedies for resolving a dispute than a Court can impose.


Is where parties either themselves or represented by their lawyers formally discuss matters of mutual concern and attempt to resolve the dispute that has arisen between them.

This method of resolving disputes is usually quicker and cheaper than going to Court and provides a way to resolve the dispute in private.

Tribunal Claims

There are various Tribunals that aim to resolve disputes between parties in a cost effective and timely manner.  Specialist Tribunals available include the Tenancy Tribunal and Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal, who can hear claims of larger amounts than the non-specialist Disputes Tribunal, which can only hear claims up to $15,000 (or $20,000 with the consent of the parties).

These dispute resolution Tribunals are usually quicker and cheaper than litigation in Court but may be open to the public.  Lawyers are generally not used in the Disputes Tribunal.  Therefore, you will have to present your own case, but we can assist you to prepare for the hearing by drafting briefs of evidence, assisting with questions to ask the witnesses etc.

Which alternative resolution method is best for your case will depend on the nature of the dispute, the amount involved, the remedies you seek and the complexity of the facts.

Call us for a no-obligation, confidential, chat on 0800 733 424 if you would like to know more about how we can assist you resolve matters.