This guide provides information about researching New Zealand law, including books, subscription databases, and free internet resources. To learn more about starting research in a foreign law jurisdiction you're unfamiliar with please visit our instructional video on Foreign Law Research Basics. The primary focus of this guide is on English-language materials, but Te Reo (Māori Language) materials are also discussed.
New Zealand operates as a unitary state with a unicameral legislature (there exists in its Parliament only a House of Representatives, with no Upper House). The Constitution Act and New Zealand Constitution Act anchor the modern New Zealand constitution. Due to its history as part of the United Kingdom, New Zealand still operates using the common law tradition. New Zealand is part of the Commonwealth of Nations.
New Zealand has no written constitution, although a constitution exists in a series of statutes, letters of patent, treaties, and tradition. The British Parliament passed the 1846 Constitution Act which was soon superseded by the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852, which provides the anchor to New Zealand's modern constitution. The Library of Congress provides information regarding helpful materials on New Zealand Constitutional Law.
The national legislature is the Parliament of New Zealand. 120 members are chosen in a mixed member parliament (MMP) method. The parliament chooses a government based on majority of a single party or a coalition of parties. The de facto head of government is the Prime Minister of New Zealand. However, the executive head of the government is the Queen, with power vested in an appointed Governor General.
The legislative process is outlined the Parliament Brief on the legislative process. The official series for statutory law is the Statutes of New Zealand which begins in 1860.
The three major courts are the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeals. WorldLII.org provides a detailed online listing of courts and court reports. The University of Waikato also provides a Directory of Decisions. The New Zealand Law Reports is the official publication for case law.
Additional online access to cases is available through:
The context surrounding a legal issue can be an extremely important part of the research process. News sources can help researchers stay up to date and provide an important frame of reference. The University of Waikato has a helpful Research Guide on Finding New Zealand Newspapers.
Current New Zealand news sources are available through Lexis, Westlaw, and Factiva:
Historical news is available through the following databases:
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