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Government & legal system

Disputes Tribunal hearings

Before the hearing

What can I do to prepare for the Disputes Tribunal hearing?

Whether you are the applicant bringing the claim or the respondent defending it, you should prepare as fully as possible for the Disputes Tribunal hearing:

  • Make a written submission – You can make a written submission to the Tribunal, giving the details of your dispute and making any arguments you think are relevant. You can ask the Tribunal to attach the submission to your file. The advantage of doing this is that the referee will be more familiar with your claim at the hearing.
  • Rehearse your argument – Write down the main things you want to say and organise them into a clear and logical explanation of your side of the dispute.
  • Bring supporting documents – Organise evidence that might support your side of the dispute, such as letters, invoices, receipts, agreements or contracts, quotes, photographs or police reports.
  • Witnesses – Ask any witnesses who can support your case to be present at the hearing. If a witness refuses to go to the hearing, the Disputes Tribunal can order them to attend by giving them a summons.

Showing your evidence to the other side

In the Disputes Tribunal, “disclosure” (of evidence) must be made available to the other party before a hearing, so it is important to send copies of all written evidence to the other parties. The Tribunal advises that 10 days before the hearing allows a fair amount of time for disclosure.

The referee on the day has the discretion to allow evidence or to adjourn the hearing to allow the other party time to examine the evidence.

Note: Each party is entitled to a reasonable amount of time to prepare their claim or defence. If a hearing goes ahead and someone hasn’t had reasonable time, that may be grounds 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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