District Courts were established in 1980 to replace Magistrates Courts, which had dealt with minor criminal matters and civil claims since 1893. The establishment of the District Courts was the result of the recommendations made in the 1978 Royal Commission on the Courts. report. District Courts were given an expanded jurisdiction and the Family Court was created as a division of the District Court in 1981.
The Youth Court is another specialist division of the District Court, dealing with people under the age of 17 who have been charged with criminal offending.
Today there are 57 District Courts located throughout New Zealand. The larger District Courts operate on a daily basis, while others may only operate on a weekly or monthly basis, usually being serviced by Judges from larger centres.