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
1. This protocol will take effect when New Zealand moves into the Covid-19 Protection Framework system at 11:59pm on Thursday 2 December 2021.
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.
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 Court take account of this, and set in place 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 – will have to comply with the directions set out in this protocol.
5. Anyone seeking to enter a Māori Land Court or Māori Appellate Court hearing must present a current My Vaccine pass or provide acceptable evidence of a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours prior to entry to the Court.
6. Counsel, parties or other persons who are unable to meet the requirements set out in paragraph 5 above may participate in or observe a hearing by telephone conference, audio-visual link (AVL) or another form of videoconferencing, such as Zoom. Any person who needs to participate remotely in a hearing due to the above requirements 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.
7. Counsel or parties who are able to meet the requirements set out in paragraph 5 above, but do not wish to participate in a hearing in person, may apply to the Court to participate remotely.
8. 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.
9. 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. Anyone entering a hearing must register their attendance by scanning a QR code or by entering their details on a list maintained by Court staff.
10. No person who is unwell should enter a hearing at any time.
Hearings conducted at a location within a COVID-19 Protection Framework Green level
11. Hearings at a location in a COVID-19 Protection Framework Green level will be conducted in person, subject to the provisions set out in paragraphs 5-10 above.
Hearings conducted at a location within a COVID-19 Protection Framework Red or Orange level
12. At a location in a COVID-19 Protection Framework Red or Orange level, the Māori Land and Māori Appellate Courts will continue to carry out their work, with hearings conducted in person (subject to the provisions set out in paragraphs 5-10 above), by remote technology or by a combination of both, as determined by the Judge presiding at the hearing.
Health and Safety
13. Persons present in a hearing must observe one-metre social distancing requirements at all levels of the Covid-19 Protection Framework. This may result in limits to the number of people permitted to enter a hearing.
14. At Red and Orange levels, all persons present in a hearing must wear a face mask in public areas and courtrooms. Those attending court will be reminded of this by Court staff upon their arrival, and attendees will be offered 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.
15. At Green level, wearing a face mask in public areas and courtrooms is encouraged.
16. 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 19-20 below.
17. To ensure ease of access and social distancing, parties should ensure that they arrive at Court at the time that their matter is scheduled for hearing and vacate the courtroom once their hearing has concluded.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. Where email or postal filing is not possible, Court applications and documents may be filed in person, so long as the provisions set out in paragraphs 5-10 above regarding in-person attendance at a hearing are met. 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.
21. Accredited news media will continue to have entry to the Court 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
22. 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 5-10 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