What is mediation?

When two parties cannot agree on an issue and it is not appropriate to take the matter to the Disputes Tribunal, mediation can be used to help them come to a mutual agreement. Mediation is when the people in dispute meet together (usually either in person or over the phone), assisted by an impartial, trained mediator. Mediators are not advocates for either party. They are independent people committed to the process of assisting the parties to reach agreement.

People can be referred to mediation if they have taken a dispute to court or applied to a dispute resolution service. Examples of the latter include disputes relating to: 

You don’t have to wait until you are referred to mediation though – if you want to use mediation to help settle a dispute with someone you can do so as long as you both want it. Read on to find out more about this.

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What kinds of disputes can be resolved through mediation?

A wide range of disputes can be resolved this way, as long as both parties in dispute agree to try using mediation. In addition to the types of disputes described above, where mediation is arranged by a government agency or specialised dispute resolution provider, mediation could help settle a dispute between family members, flatmates, or neighbours (for example).

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What exactly does a mediator do?

The mediator is someone who is independent and impartial, and who has done training in mediation. Their role is to encourage both parties to explain to each other what the problem is from their point of view, help them to work out what the real issues are, and help them to find a solution which suits everyone involved. They don’t give advice or make decisions for you.

Depending on the type of dispute, there may be just one mediator or two co-mediators.

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How much does mediation cost?

Mediation that is provided through a government agency is usually free (however mediation through Family Disputes Resolution is an exception unless you are eligible for government funding).

If it’s not being arranged through a government agency there will be a cost involved, however it is likely to be less costly than going to court.

The cost of mediation will vary widely depending on the type of dispute you have, who is providing the mediation service and how long it takes. Some providers charge a flat fee for an initial session, plus an hourly rate for additional sessions. Others charge a daily rate which varies depending on the monetary value of what’s in dispute.

Be sure to find out how much a mediator charges when you are choosing one.

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How do we find a suitable mediator?

If your dispute relates to care of children matters, tenancy, telecommunications servicesfinancial services or employment relations it’s best to go through the appropriate disputes resolution process.

If your dispute is with a motor vehicle dealer who is a member of the Motor Trade Association (MTA), you can contact the MTA about their mediation service.

For other types of disputes you can find a mediator or arbitrator by contacting the New Zealand Law Society, the Association of Dispute Resolvers (LEADR) or the Arbitrators' and Mediators' Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ).

You should look for someone who:

  • is independent and impartial i.e. they have no personal relationship with either party and no self interest in the outcome
  • has a recognised qualification in mediation – if they belong to a recognised professional association such as the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ) they have to meet a certain standard of competence and a code of ethics
  • knowledgeable in the subject matter which you are in dispute about e.g. employment, building and construction.

When choosing a mediator, both you and the other party should agree on who it will be. If you can’t agree, you can ask a professional association to appoint one for you.

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What are our options if mediation doesn’t work?

Depending on the dispute, your next step could be:

  • adjudication/arbitration – where an adjudicator/arbitrator assesses the dispute and makes a binding decision.
  • legal action – taking the issue to court