I've got a dispute - how do I resolve it?

When it comes to dispute resolution, there are many available options. Choosing the right option for your dispute is crucial to ensuring you can resolve your dispute in the most time and cost effective manner.

There are three main types of dispute resolution procedures:


Mediation is an informal dispute resolution procedure where the parties meet and negotiate with the intention of reaching a resolution.

The mediation is guided by an independent third party known as the ‘mediator’. The mediator’s role is to guide the parties reach a resolution, however the mediator normally has no power to decide the outcome.

Mediation can be a quick and cost effective way of reaching resolution, but it is only useful if both parties come to mediation with an open mind and genuinely want to sort the matter.

Some agreements dictate that mediation must be pursued before any other method of dispute resolution can be explored.


Arbitration occurs where the parties agree to refer their dispute to an independent third party (or parties) known as the ‘arbitrator’.

Arbitration is similar to court hearings - both parties present their evidence and the arbitrator makes a decision. The parties are bound by this decision.

While arbitration is similar to court litigation, there are some differences –

  1. You can select your own arbitrator, ensuring they have knowledge in the field to which your claim relates;
  2. Arbitration tends to be more time and cost effective; and
  3. You can choose the procedural rules that you want to follow – typically resulting in less formality than litigation.

Litigation: Employment Relations Authority, Disputes Tribunal, District Court, Family Court and High Court

The parties plead their case in court and a judge makes a decision which is binding on the parties, although there are avenues of appeal in most cases.

If your claim is less than $30,000.00, the disputes tribunal will be the most cost effective way of litigating your claim. However, lawyers cannot represent you in the disputes tribunal.

Litigation should really be the last option because:

  1. Litigation is typically more costly/time consuming than other dispute resolution options; and
  2. Due to its high degree of formality, it is important to have a legal representative, to ensure that the formal requirements are met.

It is also important to understand that some agreements direct what type of dispute resolution procedure must be followed, limiting your dispute resolution options.

It is important that you obtain advice as to what dispute resolution procedure is best for your circumstances. At PRLaw we have a team that is experienced in all methods of dispute resolution – check out our website.