About the Disputes Tribunal

The Disputes Tribunal is quicker, cheaper and less formal than court.

You can use the Disputes Tribunal to settle disputes up to $30,000 without going to court. However, the Disputes Tribunal cannot help with debts when the person owing the money agrees they owe the debt but doesn’t pay anyway. In other words, you can’t use the Tribunal as a debt collection agency.

What to expect at a Disputes Tribunal hearing

Disputes Tribunal hearings are informal. There's no judge or jury. The hearing is run by a referee. You can’t have a lawyer represent you. Hearings can also be held using audio visual services such as videoconferencing or telephone but only if the Referee is satisfied that it's appropreiate to do so. 

It's usually in a small hearing room rather than a court room. These rooms are set up like a meeting room with chairs around a table. You usually don't need to give evidence under oath. 

You don't have to dress formally. You can wear clothes you feel comfortable in. 

Although the referee will lead you through the hearing, you're more likely to get the result you want if you prepare well for the hearing and bring everything you need.

How the Disputes Tribunal hearing runs

  • The referee introduces everyone. They explain how the hearing will run. 

  • Both parties explain their side of the dispute. The applicant speaks first. When both have spoken there's a discussion about the points that are in disagreement. 

  • Any witnesses are called into the hearing room to give evidence. Both parties and the referee can question the witnesses.

  • The referee tries to help you both agree how to settle the dispute. If you reach an agreementand it's approved by the referee, it's binding (you must follow the agreement). 

  • If you can't agree, the referee makes a decision. This decision may be given at the hearing or be posted to the parties later. 

  • Sometimes the referee may need more information. If so, the rest of the hearing will be putoff. You will need to come back at another time.

Read more about Disputes Tribunal at: https://disputestribunal.govt.nz/