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Government & legal system

The Disputes Tribunal hearings

Before the hearing

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

Whether you are the applicant or the respondent, you should prepare as much as you can for the Disputes Tribunal hearing:

  • Add more information to your claim, if anything comes up – you can add more information to your claim even after you submit the initial paperwork. You can email the Tribunal and get them to attach the information to your file, or just bring the information on the day.
  • Practice your argument – Write down the main things you want to say and organise them into a clear and logical order to explain your side of the story.
  • Bring supporting documents – Organise evidence that might support your side of the dispute, such as letters, invoices, receipts, screenshots, agreements or contracts, quotes, photographs, or police reports. You can use your phone as evidence, but it’s better to provide paper copies of messages and emails.
  • Witnesses – Ask any witnesses to be present at the hearing. If a witness refuses to go to the hearing, the Disputes Tribunal can order them to attend.

Note: You can’t have a lawyer attend the Tribunal with you, but you can get help from a lawyer with the paperwork and organising your arguments. Your local Community Law centre might be able to help you with this for free.

Do I have to submit my evidence before the hearing?

You can submit your evidence and arguments as an attachment to your claim form, or email it to the Tribunal before the hearing, or bring it with you on the day. The referee shouldn’t reject the evidence just because you didn’t send it in advance.

The referee might decide to delay the hearing if they think the other side needs more time to read and go over the evidence if they haven’t seen it before.

If a hearing goes ahead and someone hasn’t had reasonable time to prepare their side of the story, 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 you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Disputes Tribunal

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

Website: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz

Information on how to make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/how-to-make-a-claim
Make a claim online:  www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/how-to-make-a-claim/apply-online
Applying to the Disputes Tribunal by paper: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/assets/DT-Claim-form2.pdf

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

Consumer NZ

Consumer NZ provides information on how the Disputes Tribunal works and may be a helpful resource for consumer-related claims.

Website: www.consumer.org.nz/articles/disputes-tribunals
Email: info@consumer.org.nz
Phone: 0800 266 786

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

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

Website: www.cab.org.nz
Phone: 0800 367 222
Find your local CAB office: www.cab.org.nz select “Find a CAB”

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