Lawyers have expressed concern for the safety of victims of domestic violence as more district courts streamline their operations - merging family and criminal court counters.
Hamilton District Court is the latest of three - the others are Manukau and Christchurch - to merge operations, making their main reception areas a one-stop shop for the public seeking assistance.
The Ministry of Justice says the approach is nothing new and is to ensure users get a "consistent, quality service".
But many Waikato lawyers have baulked at the sudden change, which came into effect last Monday, as they fear it will put women off seeking protection orders.
There are two ways of obtaining a protection order: police can apply as part of a criminal prosecution, or through the Family Court under the Domestic Violence Act.
Before last Monday, people visiting the Family Court in Hamilton had their own entrance, with a reception area based on a separate floor.
Waikato-Bay of Plenty Law Society president Kerry Burroughs - who met Hamilton ministry staff on Wednesday - said it appeared to be a cust-cutting exercise as court workers were left trying to juggle the amount of work with the number of personnel available.
"I think it's a no-brainer, that what it comes down to is the staff they have there is all the staff they'll get ... so they've got to find better ways to use them and make them all multi-functional for today's world."
Hamilton family and criminal court lawyer Kirstie Barr said the consolidation was "just a stupid move".
"I don't understand why they've done it. I just don't think the Ministry of Justice has thought it through particularly well. The concern is, more than anything, in domestic violence situations the potential for mum to be going to the family court counter to seek information about obtaining a protection order and that could conceivably be at the same time as dad's been arrested and his family turning up at the criminal court counter," Mrs Barr said.
It seemed the Government was trying to save money by scrimping on staff - but at the expense of victims.
"Family Court is a closed court. The idea is that all that information is private, and yet they're wanting them to be upstairs discussing these matters with other people waiting in line."
Mrs Barr doubted that a woman who was in a violent relationship would risk going to court if the accused's friends or family could be there.
"It's intimidating enough with them all gathering around outside."
Senior Hamilton barrister Roger Laybourn said the changes put women at risk.
"I think it would potentially be very distressing for vulnerable women."
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said shared front-counter spaces had always been in place in most courts.
"Keeping court users safe is a priority. Our staff are trained to recognise problems and will take people into a separate room if need be.
"A victim unexpectedly having contact with the accused or accused's family at the front counter has not, so far, been an issue."
He said security officers patrolled the court, including the counter areas.