The government today responded to criticisms of the judiciary by announcing sweeping reforms of the court system.
The proposals released today by Justice Minister Judith Collins aim to address claims made by some that the judiciary is out of touch, and struggling to adapt to a changing environment.
Under the proposed reforms judges will be required to demonstrate a more diverse range of abilities, including management skills, a sound knowledge of accounting, and executive leadership skills.
“We want leaders prepared to take the judiciary forward in a more dynamic and flexible fashion, and committed to adding value to the organisation”, said Collins.
“I think it’s fair to say that judges are perceived by the public to be aloof and above the fray. But the country need a more hands-on judiciary prepared to push hard for results, and absolutely dedicated to making efficiency gains and improving returns.
“We want the judiciary to be more accountable to stakeholders. Ultimately the buck stops with them.”
Collins said no decision had been made on whether to proceed with a partial float of the judiciary.
However, the Justice Minister said talk of selling the judiciary was premature.
“That’s not on the agenda right now,” insisted Collins.
But opposition parties have claimed that the reforms are motivated by a desire to sell the judiciary.
“The price of justice is already too high,” said Labour Justice spokesperson Andrew Little. “Expect court fees to skyrocket under these reforms, as shareholders put pressure on judges to maximise returns for investors.
“It’s bad enough as it is. We’re heading into another winter, and some litigants will suffer the chilling effects of being unable to take their important cases through the court system, due to the costs involved.”
Labour leader David Shearer agreed that something needed to be done to address whatever it was that needed to be addressed.
“Something needs to be done,” said Mr Shearer. “Labour will do things. Good things. Special secret things. Just you wait and see.”
Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar said the reforms did not go far enough, but were a step in the right direction.
“I’m glad Judith Collins has finally started to listen to us”, said McVicar.