Late 2019 Public hearings to begin
Royal Commissions are reserved for the gravest issues of importance to New Zealand. It is therefore critical that the information that comes to the attention of the Commission is shared with the public to support and inform community discussions. Public hearings are a key mechanism for this to occur.
Hearings are a means to ensure that independent, unbiased findings and recommendations are made by the Royal Commission, based on principles of fairness and natural justice.
Public hearings will be held following an investigation into agreed topics that are underpinned by eight strategic pillars, or ‘pou’:
- Circumstances of going into care
- Nature and extent of abuse
- Impact of abuse
- Systemic factors
- Redress and rehabilitation
- Transforming how we care, and
- The Treaty of Waitangi.
Each topic, or themed hearing, will be like a mini-inquiry of its own. The evidence heard during the course of the public hearings will inform the Royal Commission’s final report.
The public hearings process will involve:
- Preliminary hearings which set out the scope and focus for the overall inquiry itself as well as each specific topic, including identification of key witnesses and research;
- An investigation which pulls together the key information relevant to the specific hearing;
- A public hearing which may be live-streamed with the purpose of testing the information put forward by core participants and the Royal Commission.
- An inquisitorial approach will be used in all public hearings. An inquisitorial approach is aimed at getting the fullest and very best information before the Commissioners so they can make the best possible findings and recommendations. This is different from an adversarial approach which sees parties to litigation ‘going against each other’.
The first Public hearing – a Preliminary hearing – is scheduled to take place in mid-2019. Among other things, this will include an outline of processes and procedures, legal assistance availability, protocols and guidelines.
An “evidential” hearing is scheduled to take place later this year. This may be a contextual hearing, where Commissioners hear evidence from expert witnesses who can speak of their experiences in working with or for survivors of abuse in care, or generally about the experiences of particular groups of New Zealanders who have suffered abuse in care. The details of the first evidential hearing have not been finalised yet.