COVID-19 UPDATE: The Māori Land Court has set protocols outlining how the Court will operate under the COVID-19 Protection Framework.
Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court
COVID-19 Protection Framework Protocol
1 December 2021
(Revised 31 January 2022, 9 February 2022, 5 April 2022)
1. The COVID-19 Protection Framework (the Protection Framework) provides protection from COVID-19 through three settings – Red, Orange and Green. This protocol applies while the Protection Framework is in place.
2. Courts are an essential service. Under the Protection Framework the Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court will carry out all their usual scheduled work at the Red, Orange and Green settings, to ensure access to justice. This protocol sets out a framework to ensure that everyone who needs to participate in Court proceedings is able to do so. The primary considerations that underpin this protocol, and decisions under it, are the interests of justice and the protection of the health and safety of all who participate in Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court proceedings.
3. I am conscious that a significant number of applicants, respondents and members of the public who attend Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court sittings are people who are over 70, are immunocompromised, or who are otherwise particularly vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 virus. It is important that the Courts take account of this, and establish guidelines to ensure the safety of all who normally attend Court sittings – particularly our pakeke (elderly), but also all parties, counsel, Court staff, Judges and members of the public.
4. With this in mind, all persons entering the Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court for Court hearings or Court-related events – namely, all parties, counsel, Court staff, Judges and members of the public – must comply with the directions set out in this protocol.
Hearings in Green level
5. Hearings at a location in Green level will be conducted in person, subject to the provisions set out in paragraphs 12-17 below.
Hearings in Orange level
6. Hearings at a location in Orange level will be conducted in person (subject to the provisions set out in paragraphs 12-17 below), by remote technology or by a combination of both, as determined by the Judge presiding.
7. Remote hearings will be conducted using telephone conferencing, audio-visual link (AVL) or another form of videoconferencing, such as Zoom.
Hearings in Red level
8. Hearings at a location in Red level will default to being conducted by remote technology. Judges will also consider whether applications scheduled for hearing can be dealt with on the papers. Where determination on the papers is possible, this is to be preferred.
9. As at Orange level, remote hearings may be conducted using telephone conferencing, audio-visual link or another form of videoconferencing, such as Zoom.
10. This will also apply to all Court-related events presided over by a Māori Land Court Judge or run by a Court Registrar, Deputy Registrar, Court-appointed mediator or Court-appointed facilitator.
11. Where parties are unable to appear remotely due to lack of access to the necessary technology, and in the presiding Judge’s view it would be inappropriate to delay advancing the application, limited in-person appearances may be permitted by the Judge. Where any case is heard in person, it will be subject to the provisions set out in paragraphs 12-17 below.
12. At any in-person hearings at the Red or Orange level the Court will operate on a case-by-case call basis, with parties entering the courtroom when their case is called and leaving once it is concluded. For the safety of participants in-person attendance at hearings will be limited to parties, their counsel, Court staff and the Judge at Red and Orange levels, except where leave has been given by the Judge to another person to appear. Parties will be required to wait outside the courtroom until their case is called, although cases will be set down by the Court with sufficient time allowed between matters so that there is unlikely to be any overrun, and all cases can be heard at the times specified in the Pānui.
13. All participants attending an in-person hearing at the Red or Orange level of the Protection Framework will be asked to take a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) before the Court hearing commences. The Registry will advise counsel and any party who is not legally represented of the arrangements for testing, and time will be allowed for parties to arrive at Court, take a test and confirm the result before their hearing commences. If participants are asked to take a RAT, and any participant declines to do so, the presiding Judge will determine whether and how the hearing will proceed. If any participant tests positive, the presiding Judge will determine on a case-by-case basis whether and how the hearing may be able to continue.
14. Counsel, parties or other persons may seek leave to participate in or observe an in-person hearing by telephone conference or videoconferencing. Any person who wishes to participate remotely in a hearing should contact the Court in advance of the hearing so that the necessary arrangements for remote participation can be made. If any party does not have access to the necessary phone or internet services to participate in a hearing by telephone or videoconferencing, they should apply to the Court for directions as to how they can be heard remotely.
15. The requirements above will also apply to all Court-related events presided over by a Māori Land Court Judge or run by a Court Registrar, Deputy Registrar, Court-appointed mediator or Court-appointed facilitator at the Red or Orange level of the Protection Framework.
16. Everyone who attends a hearing in person must comply with the health and safety requirements set out below, together with any other health and safety directives that may be given by the Presiding Judge or Pae Matua/Director.
17. No person who is unwell should enter an in-person hearing at any time.
Health and Safety
18. Persons present in a hearing must observe one-metre social distancing requirements at all levels of the Protection Framework. This may result in limits to the number of people permitted to enter a hearing.
19. At Red and Orange levels, all persons present in a hearing must wear a surgical mask or a KN95 (or equivalent) mask in public areas and courtrooms. Those attending court will be reminded of this by Court staff upon their arrival, and attendees will be provided with a mask if they do not already have one. Masks are to be worn at all times at hearings, unless permission is given by a judge to remove a mask or if a medical exemption applies. Where a medical exemption applies, attendees will be required to present proof of the exemption, such as a doctor’s certificate, to Court staff. Court staff will wear masks when in courtrooms and public spaces.
20. At Green level, wearing a face mask in public areas and courtrooms is encouraged.
21. The following hygiene practices can be expected in all hearings:
a. Those working in the courtroom, including counsel, are required to maintain appropriate one-metre social distancing. Seats in public galleries will be taped off to ensure this.
b. Cleaning products are available on site to enable staff and lawyers to keep their immediate areas clean (including AVL suites).
c. Hand sanitiser will be readily available within the courtroom.
d. The Court will not normally permit documents to be handed up during a hearing. Documents that parties wish to produce should be filed prior to the hearing in accordance with paragraphs 24-26 below.
22. To ensure ease of access and social distancing, parties should ensure that they arrive at Court at the allocated time and vacate the courtroom once their hearing has concluded.
23. Any concerns about health and safety practices in the Court should be raised with the local Māori Land Court Service Manager in the first instance.
24. Any filing with the Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court should be done, where possible, by email or post. The email and postal addresses for all Court offices can be found on the Court’s website at www.maorilandcourt.govt.nz/contact-us.
25. Where email or postal filing is not possible, at Green and Orange levels Court applications and documents may be filed in person. Measures will be put in place at Māori Land Court counters to ensure appropriate social distancing between all Court visitors. No one who is feeling unwell should file any Court documents in person.
26. At Red level, Māori Land Court counters will be closed. A drop box will be available at all Court entrances for Court documents to be filed, where parties are unable to file by email or post. Court assistance will be available by phone, email and other remote technology, but will not be able to be provided in person while at the Red level.
27. Accredited news media will continue to have entry to the Court (subject to the requirements set out in paragraphs 12-17 above) in order to report court proceedings, and to ensure open and transparent justice. Remote access for accredited news media will also continue to be facilitated.
Expectations of counsel
28. Counsel are expected to assist the court by:
a. Briefing clients and witnesses on public health message and the requirements of this protocol, including:
i. Not to come to court if unwell.ii. To advise counsel as early as possible if they are unable to attend court.
iii. Social distancing expectations in the courtroom.
iv. What they may expect by way of PPE and hygiene supplies in a hearing.
b. Seeking remote participation in appropriate cases, including in relation to the requirements set out in paragraphs 12-17 above.
c. Raising any deficiencies with cleaning, the availability of cleaning supplies or social distancing with a Service Manager immediately.
Chief Judge Wilson Isaac
1 December 2021 (Revised 31 January 2022, 9 February 2022, 5 April 2022