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Government & legal system

Challenging a Disputes Tribunal decision

Appeals to the District Court

What are the grounds for an appeal?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 50

There is only one ground for appealing a decision of the Disputes Tribunal. This is that the referee conducted the proceedings (or a Tribunal investigator carried out an inquiry) in a way that was unfair and prejudiced the result of the proceedings.

What happens after an appeal is lodged?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 51

Once a notice of appeal has been filed at the District Court, the Tribunal referee (or investigator) has 28 days to prepare a report to the court which sets out:

  • how the hearing was conducted, and
  • the reason for their decision.

The court registrar will send a copy of the report to both parties before the appeal is heard.

Who deals with an appeal?

The appeal will be dealt with by a District Court Judge.

How will the judge make a decision?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 53

The judge will look at:

  • the grounds for appeal, and
  • the referee’s (or investigator’s) report.

The judge will only consider whether or not there has been procedural unfairness. An appeal is not a rehearing of the facts.

What types of decisions can the judge make?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 53

The judge can:

  • dismiss the appeal, or
  • cancel the Tribunal’s order and order a rehearing (see above, “Rehearings by the Disputes Tribunal”), or
  • cancel the Tribunal’s order and transfer the proceedings to the District Court.

What does making an appeal cost?

District Courts Fees Regulations 2009, Schedule

An application for an appeal costs $200.

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 52

A party to an appeal can choose to be represented by a lawyer if they wish. If a person uses a lawyer for the appeal they will have to pay their lawyer’s fees. Legal Aid is generally not available because of the relatively small amounts involved.

What is the time limit for filing an appeal?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 50(3)

Either party has 28 days after the original decision to file for an appeal.

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The Disputes Tribunal

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and can help you apply to the Disputes Tribunal or defend a claim there.

Consumer NZ


This provides information on how the Disputes Tribunal works, your rights at the hearing and how to file a claim.

Disputes Tribunal


This website includes general information about how to apply, fees, the hearing process, and appeals.

You can apply online at:

Some Disputes Tribunal decisions are available to read at: www.disputesTribunal.govt.nz/disputes-decision-finder

Citizens Advice Bureau


Phone (0800 FOR CAB) 0800 367 222

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for information about the Disputes Tribunal process.

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