NCAT'S FIRST YEAR

Last year, we reported on the newly established NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) which consolidated 22 former NSW tribunals and other bodies. The NCAT is a single tribunal with 4 divisions, being Administrative & Equal Opportunity, Consumer & Commercial division, Guardianships and Occupational divisions.

The objective of such a consolidation was to provide the NSW community with a single point of access for Tribunal services that are "prompt, accessible, economical and effective".

Since it was established in January 2014, NCAT has conducted more than 92,000 hearings, on issues ranging from tenancy disputes to building works, decisions on guardianship and financial management and consumer complaints.

NCAT's online services appear to be providing users with easy access to the Tribunal's services, with more than 40,000 applications lodged online since it commenced.

Over the next few years, NCAT aims to raise awareness and understanding in the community about the Tribunal to ensure its role is promoted within the NSW civil justice system.

We will continue to monitor the Tribunal's progress over the next 12 months and report on any significant developments.

UPDATE ON THE NEWCASTLE COURTHOUSE DEVELOPMENT

If you've traversed the west end of Hunter Street recently, you would have noticed that the new courthouse precinct is in its final stages of construction.

Reportedly set to open in October 2015, the new courthouse contains 10 courtrooms and 2 tribunal rooms with the capacity to host Local, District and Supreme Court hearings. It is said to be the most technologically advanced courthouse facility outside Sydney.

McCabes has recently observed that Judges sitting in the Civil Division of the District Court are taking into account the new types of facilities, such as video-link for witnesses giving evidence, when listing matters for hearing in Newcastle later this year.

The new technologically advanced facilities may also open the door for opportunities to hear more complex matters in Newcastle, including Supreme Court trials, which will no doubt increase the legal presence in the Hunter.