The District Court will be replaced as the main venue of accident compensation appeals by a new tribunal, the Government has confirmed.
Courts Minister Chester Borrows was responding to Herald inquiries yesterday following a statement by Dunedin lawyers Peter Sara and Warren Forster.
The lawyers said: "Cabinet has signed off on a paper to remove access to the courts for injured New Zealanders. The plan, which has not had any consultation, proposes ousting judges from deciding the facts of ACC [Accident Compensation Corporation] cases."
Mr Forster told the Herald he was learned of the plan from a senior policy adviser at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment during a discussion over official information he had sought.
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In their statement, issued by claimants support group Acclaim Otago, the lawyers said, "ACC is beginning to lose significant cases in the District Court - and it's costing them money. In a bid to maintain ACC's role in propping up the Government's Budget surplus, the Government has devised a solution: make it harder for claimants to win."
However, Mr Borrow's dismissed the lawyers claims about the effects of and reasons for the change.
"The concerns raised by Acclaim Otago are unfounded. These reforms do not in any way change the substantive law being applied, restrict appeal rights, or downgrade the quality of judicial decision-making claimants will receive."
"The Government is progressing a package of reforms to tribunal administrative processes, designed to speed up the way cases move through a range of tribunals.
"This includes directing ACC appeals currently dealt with by a special division of the District Court, and by an existing tribunal, together to a new Accident Compensation Appeals Tribunal, as well as a number of other measures.
"These are due to be announced in the near future."