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Introduction from the Chief Executive

The Ministry of Justice is undergoing significant change. The scale of reform has escalated each year since we began work on the Government’s 100-day post-election legislation programme in December 2008. To achieve a modern, sustainable and effective justice system and realise the benefits that creates for New Zealand, we have put in place the biggest change programme the Ministry has ever seen – and there is more to come. 

Our justice and legal systems are based on fundamental principles - such as the rule of law, and the protection of individual rights and freedoms. But the Ministry recognises that the absolutes at the heart of our role don’t mean we can’t be innovative and responsive in how we work. We want a safe and just society, and we want our services to meet the expectations and needs New Zealanders now have. We also want our systems to be modern and to take advantage of all the tools that are now available.

That is why the last year has been one of change and progress across all parts of our organisation. We have directed effort and investment at improving court performance and trying to get much more efficient court operations. For example, audio-visual links were implemented between the Auckland District Court and Mount Eden Corrections Facility, with over 1,100 appearances via video link during the year. A further 58 courtrooms were connected to the National Transcription Service, our collections operation was reorganised around a national database to allow staff to prioritise work across the country, and we developed a new regional way of working across Auckland’s courts.

We have also had another huge year for the Treaty settlement programme, and we supported the review of the foreshore and seabed legislation. Internally, a major project was preparing for the 1 July 2011 integration of the Legal Service Agency and Public Defence Service.

Much of what’s been done and is underway is groundbreaking. The Addressing the Drivers of Crime programme and legislation in train around alcohol could see some significant societal shifts, and the plans to modernise criminal procedures will have a massive impact on the way justice is done.

As well, the Ministry is working with other justice sector agencies to modernise the justice system. We are setting in place the building blocks for a better and more responsive justice system that is fit for the needs of today’s society and that we can scale and build on as needs change over the next 10, 20, 50 years or more.

This is undeniably a huge job. But the extraordinary circumstances in Christchurch, in forcing us to look for new and unique solutions, have shown that we can change and change fast. Quickly moving to centralised calling and court scheduling systems and successfully using all sorts of spaces for court hearings are examples of innovations that helped a great deal with our earthquake response. Many of these changes also required effective and positive collaboration with the New Zealand Police and Department of Corrections.

To align our internal systems and culture to meet our goals, we developed a new five-year strategic direction. With its themes of fewer, faster and fit-for-purpose we are challenging ourselves to think and work in new ways to achieve our goals: ensuring there are fewer people coming into the justice system; doing our work and delivering results faster; and creating and operating a modern, effective justice system that is fit-for-purpose today and in the future.

That we’ve done all this, and maintained and improved our business-as-usual activity, is due to our staff. I would like to thank them for their diligence and commitment. The pressures that come with change are significant. Around one third of people working at the Ministry of Justice were involved in change – for example, those working in District Courts in Auckland or in Collections. I am proud that across the country, our people have continued to work hard to respond to the Government’s challenge to innovate, modernise and provide better services.

I would also like to thank my predecessor, Belinda Clark who was Chief Executive for almost all of the period this Annual Report covers. Belinda was Secretary for Justice over a 10-year period that saw some huge changes – in particular, the merging of the Department for Courts and the Ministry of Justice, substantial law reform across all areas of the legal spectrum, and the substantial advancement of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process. The experience, skill and leadership Belinda contributed throughout her time in this role has left a lasting legacy at the Ministry.

Finally, I want to particularly thank our Christchurch staff, those in Coronial Services and those members of the judiciary who have had to deal with circumstances no one wants to encounter. Their professionalism and resilience has been inspiring.

In accordance with section 44(1) of the Public Finance Act 1989, I submit the following report on the operations of the Ministry of Justice and its audited financial statements for the year 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011.

Andrew Bridgman

Secretary for Justice and Chief Executive