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If reelected Labour says it'll establish a formal class actions regime as part of a justice system where 'New Zealanders are not blocked by cost'

Public Policy / news
If reelected Labour says it'll establish a formal class actions regime as part of a justice system where 'New Zealanders are not blocked by cost'

A re-elected Labour Government would help more people to go to court en masse to seek justice. 

It says it would introduce a formal mechanism for so-called class-actions to go through the courts. 

These are cases where large numbers of plaintiffs pool their resources and share the benefits of legal action. For them, it is a way of averting the cost deterrent of going to court in the first place. 

Class actions are big overseas, especially in Australia and the United States, but their development in New Zealand has been sluggish. 

In a report last year, the Law Commission called for legislation to establish a mechanism with proper safeguards for class actions. 

These included a need for court approval before a class action could proceed.    

The Law Commission report languished for about a year, with Chapman Tripp lawyer Laura Fraser issuing an appeal for the Government to take action. 

The Labour Party now says class actions should proceed, as part of an election commitment along with faster litigation and changed rules on some evidence. 

“We believe in a justice system where New Zealanders are not blocked by cost," Labour leader Chris Hipkins says.

“If elected, Labour will establish a formal class actions regime, which will allow victims with similar interests to collectively sue in a more efficient and cost-effective way than is currently possible."

Hipkins says the absense of a dedicated class actions regime means people on lower incomes or those without the means to progress a case on their own are often shut out of our legal system because of cost. 

“This is about fairness," Hipkins says.  

In his statement, Hipkins does not go into details about opt-in or opt-out lawsuits, though the Law Commission report said both should be allowed.   

Opt-in lawsuits are generally accepted, because they involve motivated plaintiffs with skin in the game. But opt-out lawsuits are controversial with businesses who can end up paying thousands of dollars to people who were not concerned enough to take action in the first place but can still get a cheque in the mail. 

ASB went to the Court of Appeal in August seeking to stop an opt-out case against it which had been approved by the High Court. This concerned interest payments by 150,000 customers that were subject to changes that the bank is accused of not adequately disclosing.  A verdict is still pending. 

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Perhaps this initiative would have proceeded much sooner, when it should have, if either of our major political parties thought the portfolio as being worthy of a LLB at the very least. Apart from a brief interlude by Kiri Allan, the need for any such qualification has been ignored. Justice Ministers of the past Hana, Finlay, McLay, Power have been widely respected by both sides of the house for applying themselves to the law independently and with priority. MPs are lawmakers and that is a serious responsibility that some seem to, too easily disregard. A strong justice minister is essential for all New Zealanders as we should be able to trust the law above anything else.


Everything after "If reelected Labour says" is obviously irrelevent. 


The current Labour party (circa 2016+) is one of the worst governments we have ever had. I hope they all rot on the bench never to pass another piece of legislation again.