Interpreting in courts & tribunals

What an interpreter does

Most court and tribunal hearings in New Zealand are conducted in English. An interpreter will be needed if someone is involved in a hearing but is not fluent in English.

Interpreters help ensure a fair process at court so people are not disadvantaged because they do not understand what is being said, or find it difficult to respond in English.

An interpreter interprets for a specific person involved a hearing, such as a:

  • party to a case – this may be an applicant, plaintiff, defendant, respondent or appellant
  • witness giving evidence in a case.

The interpreter’s work will also help the understanding of other people in a court or tribunal hearing:

  • the presiding officer of the court or tribunal who will make the decision in a case – this may be a judge, chair or referee
  • lawyers or representatives appearing for the Crown or prosecuting authority or parties to a case
  • the jury, if the case is a jury trial
  • a victim, if it is a criminal case and there is a victim
  • the media, if they are reporting the hearing
  • the public, if it is an open hearing.

An interpreter may need to attend a court or tribunal hearing in person or by teleconference.

Conduct expected from interpreters

The Guidelines for Interpreters set out the conduct expected of interpreters in a hearing and explain court protocol.

If an interpreter doesn’t behave in the way set out in the guidelines, they could have a complaint made against them.  

Read the Guidelines for Interpreters

Become a court interpreter

To become an interpreter you can give your curriculum vitae (CV) to your nearest court.

Find your local court

To become an interpreter for the Immigration and Protection Tribunal contact the Refugee Status Branch of Immigration New Zealand (MBIE)(external link)

Request for information

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have issued a request for information concerning language assistance services in New Zealand. Responses can be provided via this link:

Language Assistance Services RFI(external link)

As a provider of interpreting and/or translating services, you are vital to bridging the communication gap for people with limited English language proficiency, and providing the information they need in their own language. Now we seek your views and input to help shape our understanding of how to structure and deliver language assistance services so they are consistently available, accessible, and high quality across New Zealand.

This RFI is not a tender process, but a step towards procurement. We hope that you’ll take part. Our goal is that a new procurement model be developed by mid-2019.

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