INDEPENDENT NEWS

450% increase in court fees is 'tax by stealth'

Published: Wed 2 Jun 2004 08:46 AM
450% increase in court fees is 'tax by stealth'
"Middle income New Zealanders will be hard hit by the huge hikes in court fees that have emerged from last week's Budget. They are so significant they amount to a tax on justice," according to National's Environment spokesman Nick Smith.
"The costs of access to the Environment Court has increased from $45 to $245, and where there was previously no cost for hearings it is now $440 per day. 450% increases cannot be justified when inflation is running at just 2% per annum.
"The costs in the Family Court have also gone through the roof with applications for property settlements going from nil to $165 for filing, and from nothing to $585 per half day for hearings.
"The huge hike in District and High Court fees of up to 100% will hit small businesses trying to recover debts particularly hard. It is ironic that the only significant decrease is for an application to become a barrister or solicitor, which has dropped from $325 to $100.
"The Government 'giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other'. Middle-income Kiwi battlers will be hardest hit by these high charges, as they are ineligible for legal aid or waivers. These changes will become a barrier to access to justice.
"There is a problem with frivolous appeals in the Environment Court but the solution does not lie in making it too expensive for the average family, but rather in limiting the right of appeals to those directly affected.
"These new court charges will raise millions of dollars worth of extra revenue, and they come on top of the extra $2600 in taxes that the average household's been paying over the past four years. This is just another tax by stealth," says Dr Smith.

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