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Justices of the Peace (JPs) and Notary Publics both serve an important role in the community. If you have any important documents you need to have certified or a contract that requires a witnessed signature, you may engage their services. JPs and notaries can certify official copies of original documents and witness signatures on a document. Your specific document may also have other requirements that a JP or notary public can fulfil. While there is some overlap between what both of these offices provide, there are still some differences between a Justice of the Peace and notary public in New Zealand. This article will outline the exact nature of both of these roles, as well as highlight the differences between them.

What Is a Justice of the Peace?

A Justice of the Peace is usually someone of high standing in the community – someone who is proven to be responsible, and known to be of good character and have integrity. They need to have an adequate education as well, and be known by the community.

For example, your local pharmacist may also be your local JP. Some professions cannot be JPs, such as lawyers and doctors. You will typically find JPs in small towns and rural areas. 

JPs are chosen by a Member of Parliament, who is usually the MP of their electorate or someone selected by that MP. The process to become a JP is comprehensive, involving a criminal record check, and the potential JP has to take various oaths as well. JPs are volunteers, and cannot receive anything in exchange for their services. They also cannot use their office to gain any business interests.

A JP can have two different kinds of duties:

  • ministerial duties; and
  • judicial duties.

Every JP can carry out their ministerial duties. These include:

  • witnessing documents;
  • certifying documents;
  • administering oaths;
  • taking statutory declarations; and 
  • swearing of affidavits.

For example, you may go to a JP if you need your signature on a contract witnessed by a government official.

JPs can also take on some extra judicial functions. These would cover:

  • the performance of some statutes, such as minor offences and traffic laws;
  • hearing undefended cases;
  • remands and bails issues; and
  • presiding over defence trials.

What Is a Notary Public?

A notary public can carry out the same ministerial duties as a JP. But, a notary’s role is also expanded somewhat because only they can certify legal documents that are going to be used and relied upon internationally.

For example, if you own property overseas and you need your signature witnessed by a government official on a document relating to that property, you would use a notary public rather than a JP.

Because of this extra level of formality, there are more requirements for becoming a notary public than there are for being a JP. For example, a notary must:

  • have been a practising lawyer for ten years or more after their admission as a lawyer; and
  • must be a law firm partner or sole practitioner for five years.

This means that you can often find notary public services in law firms. Or, you can search the New Zealand Society of Notaries website. Notaries also charge for their services. There is no fixed fee, but it often depends on the:

  • kind of document they are notarising; and
  • volume of documents needing to be certified or witnessed.

Notary publics will also retain any copies of documents you give them to authenticate so that the overseas parties in question can independently verify them.

To make the most of your appointment with a notary public, it is a good idea to prepare the following before you go:

  • your passport or other government-issued photo ID;
  • the originals of any documents you need to be certified;
  • any instructions you have been given about the documents and what you need to be notarised; and
  • documents need to be unsigned, because the notary public needs to see you sign them.

The Differences Between a JP and a Notary Public

The key differences between these two positions are:

  • both can do many of the same tasks, but only notaries can do so for international documents;
  • JPs are free, whereas notary publics charge for their services; and
  • JPs are volunteers from the community, and in contrast, notaries are practising lawyers.

Key Takeaways

Justices of the Peace and notary publics can provide many of the same services. They can both certify documents as true, and witness signatures on important contracts. However, there are some key differences between the two. 

Only notaries can perform this service on documents that you use internationally. Notaries are also lawyers and they usually charge for this service. In contrast, JPs are responsible members of the community and they complete the role voluntarily. They can also take on some judicial duties. If you would like more information or help with having your official documents witnessed, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.


What is a Justice of the Peace?

A Justice of the Peace (JP) are volunteers from the community who perform document authentication services. This includes witnessing signatures, certifying documents as true copies and hearing affidavits or statutory declarations.

What is a Notary Public?

A notary public is a practising lawyer that can authenticate documents for you if you are going to use the documents internationally. They can witness signatures, certify documents as true copies and take affidavits or statutory declarations.

What is the difference between a Notary Public and a Justice of the Peace?

They perform many of the same services, but there are a couple of differences. JPs are volunteers from the community who cannot charge for their services but cannot certify international documents. Notaries are practising lawyers, can charge a fee for their service and can certify documents for international use.

Where can I find a Justice of the Peace or Notary Public?

Many notaries are attached to a law firm or have an office of their own. JPs are members of the community who usually have some other role as well, such as your local pharmacist. You can find both in the phonebook, or there are online directories as well.

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