Access to New Zealand Law

Originally written by Margaret Greville, formerly Law Librarian at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), and published on the GlobaLex site, this is a narrative account of the New Zealand legal system and legal research, with hypertext links to the sources mentioned. This updated version by Rosa Polaschek was published January 2019. Earlier editions were titled Introduction to New Zealand Law & Sources of Legal Information.

Courts of New Zealand

Courts of New Zealand covers the New Zealand High Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, and a number of lower courts, providing information on the history, structure and role of the courts, practice directions, case summaries, and judgments (all Supreme Court, Court of Appeal 2003 onwards, High Court 2005 onwards) in pdf: for judgments select From the Courts>Judicial Decisions. “Judicial Decisions of Public Interest” provides prompt access to selected new decisions of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court.

Directory of Decisions

Compiled at the University of Waikato Library, Directory of Decisions gives full details of the jurisdiction and administration of, and contact details for, all New Zealand courts, tribunals, statutory authorities, and other such bodies which make legal or quasi-legal decisions. This resource also indicates where decisions of each court are reported, and lists current New Zealand law report series, giving details of coverage and publishers. Except in a few cases there are no links to full text.

FindLaw New Zealand

FindLaw New Zealand is a resource guide for New Zealand lawyers including case law, legislation, legal news, law directories and links arranged by subject area.

Human Rights Commission [New Zealand]

The Commission was established by the Human Rights Commission Act 1977. It is empowered under the Human Rights Act 1993 to protect human rights in general in accordance with UN covenants and conventions. The Resources section of its web site contains a large collection of downloads, including legislation relating to human rights and case studies from 2006 onwards.

Law Commission [New Zealand]

The Law Commission is an independent, government-funded organisation, which reviews areas of the law that need updating, reforming or developing. Its recommendations are published in its report series. Publications, including Reports, 1987 onwards, Study Papers, 1999 onwards and Issues Papers 1987 onwards (called Preliminary Papers up to 2006) – may be downloaded from this site as pdf files. There is also news about the Commission’s work programme.


Lawlink is a network of seventeen New Zealand law firms. Lawyers from member firms contribute articles on various aspects of New Zealand law, published as a collection three times a year. Issues from 2010 onwards are available on the web site.

Maori Land Legislation Database

This database, compiled by Dr David Williams and hosted by the University of Auckland Library server, provides a summary of all New Zealand legislation since 1840 affecting Maori or Maori land. Each entry indicates the status of the Act in question and lists amendments to it. There is also a summary of the effect of the relevant sections of the Act, and commentary.

Maori Law Review

The Maori Law Review is a monthly publication edited by Carwyn Jones and Craig Linkhorn with associate editor Toni Love. Coverage includes all reports of the Waitangi Tribunal and relevant decisions of a number of other courts and tribunals. Issues from December 1993 onwards are available on the web site. Initially free, it is now subscription-based, but selected content is available gratis.

Ministry of Justice [New Zealand]

This web site explains the responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice which include courts, tribunals, crime prevention and electoral reform. Information for legal professionals (within About the Ministry>Lawyers & Service Providers) includes forms and information on legal aid. Within Decisions is to be found Judicial Decisions Online, a searchable database of judgments of the Supreme Court (all), Court of Appeal (2003 onwards) and High Court (2005 onwards).

New Zealand Law Society

The New Zealand Law Society is the representative body for barristers and solicitors, and makes rules under which lawyers practise. The current rules, the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008, are available on the web site (see For Lawyers>Regulatory Requirements), as are other guidelines, practice notes and court notices. The register of New Zealand lawyers holding current practising certificates is searchable online. Links are provided to many other sites, notably those providing legislation and case law.

New Zealand Legislation

New Zealand Legislation is an initiative of the New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office. It provides free access to public, local and private Acts, and Legislative Instruments (formerly termed Statutory Regulations) as currently in operation. Alternatively, Acts from 1841 to 2007 as enacted, and the 1908 Consolidation, are available in pdf format, as provided by NZLII. Historical Statutory Regulations, 1936-2007 and Historical Bills, 1854-2008 were added in 2016. Current bills are also available. Texts, which are (with certain exceptions) official, can be browsed by title or searched.

New Zealand Parliament

The “Parliamentary Business” area of the New Zealand Parliament site provides Bills and Select Committee reports, papers and petitions, and information on progress of legislation. Hansard is available from 1854 onwards, “Current” Papers presented to Parliament, 2002 onwards and Research Papers, 1996 onwards are also available. The earlier volumes of Historical Hansard (i.e. 1854-1987) are hosted by Hathitrust Digital Library.

New Zealand: IALS Library Guides

This guide from the Library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (University of London), although to a certain extent relating to the Library’s own holdings, nonetheless provides useful summary of New Zealand constitutional and legal history, legislative process and the administration of justice. The coverage of online resources indicates what material is available on subscription-based services as well as providing links to free resources. Much of the advice given on legal research methods is transferable to other other library collections.


NZLII – the New Zealand Legal Information Institute – is a joint project of the University of Otago, the Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Canterbury, the New Zealand Law Foundation and AustLII. Primary materials include Supreme Court judgments 2004 onwards, Court of Appeal judgments 1888 onwards (early tears very incomplete), and High Court judgments 1847 onwards (early years incomplete). Decisions of many tribunals and other quasi-judicial bodies are also available. New Zealand Acts and Regulations are listed both alphabetically and chronologically, and the full text is available either in pdf. Access to the New Zealand Treaty Series, 1944 onwards is also provided. Articles from the law reviews of the universities involved in the project, and from other journals, are reproduced.

Waitangi Tribunal

The Waitangi Tribunal is a permanent commission of inquiry charged with making recommendations on claims brought by Maori relating to actions or omissions of the Crown which breach the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi. It does not itself settle claims. Its recommendations to the government are contained in its reports. These are available on the web site, arranged chronologically, 1978 onwards. There is in addition ample information about the background, composition and procedures of the Tribunal.