18 Dec 2008

Call for more court space for church disputes

6:56 pm on 18 December 2008

An Auckland lawyer is calling for a bigger room at the High Court in Auckland to accomodate judicial settlement conferences for New Zealand churches.

Olinda Woodroffe says church congregations often attend settlement conferences in large numbers and the courts do not cater for large groups.

Mrs Woodroffe has written to the Minister of Courts and the Convenor of Courthouse Design Committee and would like a room large enough to accommodate groups with at least 50 people.

She said it is particularly important for representatives of large Pacific church groups who want to be present to contribute to a resolution.

Mrs Woodroffe said church is important to Pacific Island people because it often replaces the large villages they have come from.

Even if church members have elected a spokesperson, she said, they frequently want to attend hearings and listen to the discussion, to show their support.

Courts Minister Georgina Te Heu Heu says she will look Mrs Woodroffe's concerns.

However, Ms Te Heu Heu says the High Court in Auckland hears about 200 settlement conferences a year, with fewer than six involving large numbers of attendees.

She says with so few cases needing bigger venues, this may not be on the top of the priority list.