Local lawyers have welcomed a $54 million boost to speed up the District Court process by providing more judges.

Under its Wellbeing Budget, the Government has allocated $54 million over four years for more judges.

The funding will also cover additional justice sector staff needed to make sure the judges can operate effectively, Courts Minister Andrew Little said.

"The additional judges will help manage the District Court's increasing workload, improving New Zealanders' ability to access justice and reducing the toll that delays can have on people's mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.


"This funding also supports victims of crime and their families by allowing them to have their day in court sooner."

Braithwaite Law principal Tim Braithwaite said he welcomed the funding as the Rotorua court was extremely busy.

The courthouse is home to both the Rotorua District and High Courts. Photo / File
The courthouse is home to both the Rotorua District and High Courts. Photo / File

"We find it increasingly difficult to find court time for most applications to be heard, including sentencing within a reasonable time and getting bail applications in a reasonable time.

"People are held in custody when they otherwise wouldn't be."

Braithwaite said the funding was crucial for the administration of justice but it was difficult to say how many more judges would alleviate pressure.

"We definitely need more. If we get one more we could certainly have a lot more judicial time, would that be enough? I'm not sure."

Laura Owen, director of Owen Law, said while there were fantastic judges at the Rotorua courts and they were as efficient as possible, another judge would help lift the load in both the criminal and family court.

"Judicial time is a massive issue, particularly for the family court. Our clients could have hearings quicker which could resolve matters for children a lot quicker, which is what everyone wants to achieve."


However she said even if there was another judge in the court, physical space could be an issue.

Ministry of Justice figures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, show just how many cases went before the Rotorua District Court in a year.

The District Court includes family, youth and civil matters as well as criminal. Every person charged with a criminal offence will appear in the district court first.

Justice Minister Andrew Little. Photo / File
Justice Minister Andrew Little. Photo / File

In the year to June 30, new cases before the court included 5645 new criminal, non-jury cases, 166 criminal, jury trial cases, 175 youth court cases, 449 defended family court cases, 1485 undefended family cases, 14 defended civil matters and 382 undefended civil matters.

However, in the same period, cases were concluding either through sentencing or other outcomes or being transferred out of the court.

In the year to June 30, cases which concluded included 5373 criminal, non-jury cases, 139 criminal, jury trial cases, 180 youth court cases, 434 defended family court cases, 1098 undefended family cases, 10 defended civil matters and 415 undefended civil matters.

Rotorua has previously felt the crunch due to capacity issues. In November 2018, the Rotorua Daily Post reported accused Donna Grant would have to wait 18 months, until May 2020, for a trial date.

At the time Justice Mathew Downs said he regretted not being able to offer a sooner date.

"In part this reflects the length of the trial but also the court's capacity. We share this courtroom with the Rotorua District Court ... Rotorua is a busy court."

The Government also urgently passed the District Court (District Court Judges) Amendment Bill which raises the cap on the number of District Court judges from 160 to 182.

The Chief District Court Judge will work with the Justice Minister to decide where additional judges will be needed.

Acting Chief District Court Judge Denise Clark said the investment would alleviate delays but it could take time for the court to feel the benefit.

Clark said current District Court delays had built through factors like industrial action, a decline in judge numbers and changes in profile of cases in criminal jurisdiction.

"[This] has seen a greater proportion of serious offences come before the court. These cases are more complex and time consuming to deal with and, therefore, a drain on judicial time."

Rotorua has six resident District Court judges.