Police are to pay more than $2000 costs to four Chinese men charged with people-smuggling.
The Christchurch residents are accused of arranging unauthorised immigrants to enter Australia between 2007 and 2010.
According to the men's lawyer, Gerald Lascelles,the law required the police to get the consent of the Attorney-General when the charges were laid in July, but they had still not received permission to do so three months later.
The police have agreed to pay $560 costs to each of the accused.
The four men appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Thursday and have been remanded on bail until 15 November.
But Mr Lascelles says it is now uncertain precisely what charges his clients will face.
He says the police may now apply to withdraw the charges, and then lay them again, but that is just one possible scenario.