A local principal has expressed concerns about the impact of jury service on Rotorua schools but an MP says it's a problem all businesses face.

Otonga Rd Primary School principal Linda Woon said school staff made up a "significant proportion" of eligible jurors so schools carried a "huge burden".

"There is a well-known shortage of teachers so that when a staff member is called to jury service, there is a stressful impact trying to get a suitable reliever.

"We have a lot of children with emotional and mental health issues for whom any change to daily routines tips their world upside down."


Woon collected jury data from 33 local schools for the first half of 2018 and said Otonga Rd Primary School had 11 staff called on while two other schools had 16 and 12 respectively.

"Jury service disrupts learning for a week at a minimum."

Otonga Rd Primary School teacher Delwyn Bowen was called to jury service earlier this year for a week.

She said it had a "huge effect" on the classroom.

"The children really get lost without structure and routine and knowing what's happening every day.

"It is part of being a citizen, it's part of my duty as part of the community but it's a real hassle."

Woon said she had spoken to Rotorua MP Todd McClay about the issue.

McClay said the issue was one all businesses faced, not just schools.


"I have small business owners who have come and said 'I can't close my business for a week.'

"It's not that they don't want to do civic duty it's more the disruption it can cause."

Otonga Rd Primary School teacher Delwyn Bowen (left) with principal Linda Woon. Photo/Ben Fraser
Otonga Rd Primary School teacher Delwyn Bowen (left) with principal Linda Woon. Photo/Ben Fraser

But McClay said any changes to the rules around jury service would require law changes and that was a challenge.

He said the disruption of jury service could be more noticeable in places like Rotorua which had a smaller and more spread out population.

When asked how many hospital staff had taken time off for jury service in the year to date, a Lakes District Health Board spokeswoman said: "Lakes DHB recognises that employees have a civic duty to serve as jury members when required by the courts."

She said when staff needed to be excused from jury service because of work pressures, a letter of support was sent from the chief executive to support the application for exemption.

"This winter only a handful of such letters have been written by the chief executive."

The Ministry of Justice could not reveal the number of people who served as jurors this year but said jurors could be summonsed if they lived within 45km of the courthouse.

Group manager courts and tribunals Jacquelyn Shannon said jury service was a valuable and important civic duty.

"The process of summoning jurors is random so as not to potentially influence any decision."

She said jurors could be ineligible due to criminal history, occupation, or if they lived outside the jury district.

People can apply for temporary deferrals to defer to a more convenient time, or permanent excusal if it would cause undue hardship or serious inconvenience.

"We recognise that many people have personal circumstances that make it difficult for them to attend at the time they are summonsed. For this reason, the ministry summonses more people than we need."