In many instances, speedy dispute resolution will be of utmost importance for parties. If a dispute is not resolved promptly it may threaten a party’s solvency or ability to conduct ‘business as usual’.
In response to this need, a number of overseas arbitral institutions have introduced the concept of an ‘emergency arbitrator’. Under those procedures, at the request of a party an emergency arbitrator is appointed to determine applications for urgent interim relief before the arbitral tribunal is constituted. Once the application is dealt with, the ‘emergency arbitrator becomes functus.
NZDRC and NZIAC have responded to the demand for urgency in a different, and we would say, a more practical and certain way. The 2018 Rules provide for the urgent appointment of an arbitrator to deal with applications for Urgent Interim Relief before the arbitral tribunal has been constituted in the ordinary course under the Rules. Under this procedure – at the request of a party – NZDRC or NZIAC will appoint an arbitrator from a specialist panel to determine the application. The arbitrator must endeavour to make any interim order or award within five days of appointment. However, unlike the rules of other institutions, the same arbitrator (unless otherwise agreed by the parties) will continue to act as either sole or Presiding Arbitrator for the remainder of the arbitration.
This process strikes a balance between meeting demands of urgency and ensuring that time and efficiency is not needlessly wasted through a change of arbitrator. As with all other forms of interim relief, any award or order made in respect of an application for Urgent Interim Relief may be modified, suspended, or cancelled by the Arbitral Tribunal at a later time. However, after an application for Urgent Interim Relief has been determined, the arbitrator who has been appointed for that purpose may be removed by agreement of the parties thus preserving the parties’ inherent right to choose their arbitrator.
NZDRC and NZIAC have established a specialist panel for the purposes of making expedited appointments in cases involving applications for Urgent Interim Relief. The panel is comprised largely of former members of the judiciary in order to instil confidence in the process.
For domestic arbitrations, and for parties who choose to arbitrate on an ad hoc basis under the Arbitration Act 1996, NZDRC’s appointment process is designed to be efficient allowing for urgent appointments to be made within 24 hours, again providing parties and their counsel with a time efficient option to ensure that those parties are able to access a prompt and professional arbitration service at all times.