In New Zealand we enjoy a first rate court system which operates in a
principled and disciplined way. While not institutionally independent in
the sense that it relies on the Ministry of Justice for logistical
support, the judiciary’s independence in decision making and the ethos
that the Judges will run their own affairs untrammelled by the whims of
the Government of the day, are well ingrained and untouchable.
But, notwithstanding their inheritance of the long history of justice
since the Magna Carta, ignorance of what the courts actually do in New
Zealand is widespread.
To correct that knowledge gap this little booklet sets out to give
information and insight into New Zealand’s largest volume jurisdictions –
the District Courts. And so here may be found descriptions of the work
done, a smattering of workload statistics, some photographs, some light
description of courthouses, ancient and modern, and schedules of who is
who and where and how courthouses may be contacted.
Courts are often criticised for keeping things secret. In reality
justice thrives on openness. Sometimes it must be protected from
exploitation which will damage the process, but Judges know that the
light shone by public scrutiny is Justicia’s shield.
I hope that this little booklet will make a small contribution to that
There are 145 District Court Judges and the Chief District Court Judge. District Court Judges include among their numbers the Chief Coroner, 7 Environment Court Judges, two judges seconded full-time to other jurisdictions. Judges are permanently based in the main centres, but travel to other courts on circuit. While each District Court Judge can preside over minor criminal matters, they each specialise in particular aspects of the District Courts jurisdiction, either jury trials, family or youth.