News Item

February 2016

New projects tackling big issues

2016 promises to be an exciting year for the Law Foundation, with more new projects under way than ever before.

Listed below are some of the projects most recently approved by our Board they address some of the more challenging legal issues of our time, including surrogacy law, ACC appeals, and New Zealand’s response to the Islamic State threat.

The New Zealand Project

Max Harris, one of our finest young legal scholars, is aiming to stir up and shift debates on key issues that confront our society. His “New Zealand Project” will tackle topics including the future of biculturalism and the Treaty of Waitangi, the independence of New Zealand foreign policy, our “clean and green” credentials, and our criminal justice policy.

Law Foundation has awarded $5,000 towards this project

Rethinking surrogacy

This three-year project aims to address an area of law that is becoming increasingly outdated in New Zealand and world-wide. Project team leader Dr Debra Wilson of the University of Canterbury says it is widely acknowledged that current surrogacy law does not work. Dr Wilson is leading an eight-person multi-disciplinary research team. The initial scoping phase of the project (also funded by the Foundation) found that inadequate law was leading to parents’ relationships with their children not being legally recognised. The Foundation is now funding work on phase two, which will examine the impacts of New Zealand’s surrogacy arrangements, and will ultimately produce options for law reform and a model surrogacy law.

Law Foundation has awarded $86,000 towards phase two of this project

Fairer ACC appeals

Research made possible by the Law Foundation has helped change the course of government reform to the ACC appeals process. As a result, ACC claimant support group Acclaim Otago is now working cooperatively with government to develop practical ways for ACC appellants to get access to justice.

Acclaim Otago’s initial report on the ACC appeals process, published last year, found major problems with the existing process, including the cost to claimants of preparing medical and legal evidence for appeals. The authors were concerned about a Government plan to replace access to courts with a new ACC appeals tribunal, arguing that the Government was required to consult on this. The Government has since commissioned an independent review of issues raised in the Acclaim Otago report. The Acclaim Otago team, led by Warren Forster, will produce a further report this year: “Having identified problems with access to justice, we now need to try to do something about it to improve people’s experiences,” he says.

Law Foundation has awarded $150,000 towards this project

NZ’s war against Islamic State

Combating the Islamic State threat has involved balancing the risks posed by terrorism with the threat to civil liberties. A Waikato University study by Professor Al Gillespie and Dr Claire Breen will look into the risks, successes, shortcomings and options for this country in dealing with Islamic State. It will cover existing legal responses, New Zealand’s international civil liberties obligations, and the approaches of comparable countries such as the UK and Australia.

Law Foundation has awarded $39,000 towards this project

Feminist judgments

This project involves writing alternative judgments, based on feminist theory, covering a range of legal issues. It will show how feminist ideas can be implemented in legal practice, and will include a critique of common law method and show how different perspectives can affect the way the law delivers justice, dealing with unconscious bias in judicial decision making. Project leaders, Dr Rhonda Powell of Canterbury Law School and Associate Professor Elisabeth McDonald of Victoria Law Faculty, aim for the alternative judgments to become teaching resources for law students, lawyers, the judiciary and the public.

Law Foundation has awarded $38,000 towards this project

One Judge, One Family

Currently, most criminal charges and Family Court applications are dealt with by different judges, creating potential for inconsistent case resolution. Family Law researcher, Zoe Lawton’s project will assess the merits of redesigning the District, Youth and Family Courts so that a single judge is assigned to each family, regardless of the issue before the court. Her project will explore how a one judge/one family case management system may deliver better outcomes in family violence cases. Her research will include study in Israel, which has such a system.

Law Foundation has awarded $56,000 towards this project