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New Zealand Legal Research



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.  

Colonial Legal History

Legal Structure

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.

Secondary Sources

Legal Dictionaries & Encyclopedia

Materials by Subject


Legal System Generally

Legal Research

Administrative Law

Banking Law

Bankruptcy Law

Conflict of Laws

Constitutional Law

Contract Law

Criminal Law

Employment Law

Environmental Law


Family Law

Indigenous Peoples

Intellectual Property

Sports & Entertainment Law

Statutory Law

Tax Law

Tort Law

Journals & Articles

A list of New Zealand Law Journals is freely available on

Full Text Law Reviews & Journals

Indicies to Legal Scholarship



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   The British Parliament passed the Constitution Act of 1846 which was soon superseded by the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852, which provides the anchor to New Zealand's modern constitution.


Magna Carta 1297

Bill of Rights 1688

Act of Settlement 1700

Constitution Act of 1846

New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852

Judicature Act 1908

Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975

Ombudsmen Act 1975

Official Information Act 1982

Constitution Act 1986

State Sector Act 1988

Public Finance Act 1989

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

Electoral Act 1993

Human Rights Act 1993

Senior Courts Act 2016

District Court Act 2016



Statutes & Legislation

Statutes & Legislation

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.

British Statutes

Statutes passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom may also still be in full force and effect.

Case Law

Case Law

The three major courts are the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeals. 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:

Current New Zealand news sources are available through Lexis, Westlaw, and Factiva: 

Historical news is available through the following databases: 

Historical Collections


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This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

You may reproduce any part of it for noncommercial purposes as long as credit is included and it is shared in the same manner.