Projects Funded

Applications opened on 24 August 2016.  Details of all projects funded under the NZLF Information Law and Policy Project are provided here and updated as and when projects are approved under this special research fund.

Technology in Legal Education for New Zealand: Today and into the Future

Project leader: Wayne Rumbles (Te Piringa – Faculty of Law, University of Waikato), with the support of NZ Law Deans and Academics

Research grant awarded: Provisional award of $332,000 approved
Anticipated completion: March 2021

Project description:
This nationwide collaborative project, across New Zealand law faculties/schools, is an initiative that involves systematically planning and preparing to include more Information Technology-related content in core legal undergraduate education. This project also seeks to develop a portal that will serve as a dynamic repository of knowledge and resources to assist with the integration of technologically-related content into the law curriculum, as well as establish an important and creative platform for dialogue, exchange of ideas and practice, and innovative thinking between subject academics, industry and the profession.

Perception inception: New Zealand’s collision with emerging audio-visual effects technologies

Principal investigators: Tom Barraclough and Curtis Barnes

Research grant awarded: $80,250
Anticipated completion: May 2019

Project description:
Contemporary audio-visual effects technologies now allow for the creation and manipulation of information in challenging ways never before encountered. They can be used to put words in people’s mouths, portray people doing things they never did, copy their faces and voices, or even create entirely new faces and voices that appear thoroughly human. This study will consider the wide-ranging social, legal and policy issues arising. These issues are problematic for property law, consumer rights, human rights, evidence law and cyber security. They will also fundamentally change the way we trust and interact with one another and media. The researchers will develop an understanding of these technologies which will then inform the identification and exploration of the range of legal and social issues. They will proceed to define this important and rapidly emerging area of technology law, producing and promoting a report which guides creators, consumers, and policymakers for the future.

For more information, please visit their project website

Identifying Encryption Principles for New Zealand (ENCRYPT NZ)

Principal investigators: Dr Michael Dizon (Te Piringa – Faculty of Law, University of Waikato), Associate Professor Ryan Ko (Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Director of the NZ Institute for Security and Crime Science, and Head of the Cyber Security Lab, University of Waikato) and Dean of Law, Associate Professor Wayne Rumbles (Te Piringa – Faculty of Law, University of Waikato)

Research grant awarded: $59,000
Anticipated completion: February 2019

Project description:
Data encryption underlies technologies used for computer and network security, but our current law does not expressly cover the issue. This study will consider principles for a national encryption policy for New Zealand and investigate the legal, technical and social dimensions that could help better prepare New Zealand against cyber attacks and threats. The researchers will describe and analyse encryption and its challenges, and examine relevant law in New Zealand and internationally. They will research the values and interests of groups most concerned with encryption – government, business and the general public – and will recommend principles for policy development.

For more information, please visit their project website

Digital Technology and Democracy: Scoping Project

Principal investigator: Marianne Elliott

Research grant awarded: $56,660
Anticipated completion: December 2018

Project description:
This study will explore the opportunities, risks and threats posed to New Zealand’s democracy by digital technology, with a focus on social media and digital platforms. The study will involve a literature review and surveys involving experts and sector/industry stakeholders regarding their views about how digital and social media impact democratic engagement in New Zealand, as well as a representative sample of citizens who use social media and digital platforms in New Zealand.

Aotearoa’s Future Courts: Accessibility in an Online Court

Principal investigator: Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin (Legal Issues Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Otago)

Research grant awarded: $101,161
Anticipated completion: December 2019

Project description:
Many countries, including New Zealand, struggle to provide affordable, readily accessible means of resolving civil disputes. Online courts offer a potential solution and are being explored in jurisdictions such as England and Victoria, Australia. In anticipation of online courts being considered for New Zealand, this study will examine how litigants can explain their disputes clearly enough to be used in an online resolution process. The multi-disciplinary research team, led by Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin of Otago University Legal Issues Centre, will look at how well lay people translate justiciable disputes into legally coherent claims. It will also study how well lawyers communicate client disputes to court, and what innovations might help lay people explain their disputes to an online court.


Use of Posthumous Healthcare Data

Principal investigators: Dr Jon Cornwall (Centre for Early Learning in Medicine, University of Otago) and Dr Jesse Wall (Faculty of Law, University of Otago)

Research grant awarded: $87,418
Anticipated completion: December 2018

Project description:
Advances in digital technology mean that patient information can be stored and used more efficiently. Data from deceased patients can be a valuable information source for analysis between and within generations, potentially leading to improved healthcare outcomes. However, the use and potential misuse of posthumous healthcare data raise ethico-legal questions around what should happen to our personal digital healthcare legacies. The issues raised need to be addressed to ensure confidence and trust is maintained in the system. This study will examine current law, ethical guidelines and practice in New Zealand and overseas, as well as public perceptions and attitudes on the collection and use of personal health data. The researchers intend to use the findings from this initial study to carry out a larger research study on the availability and use of digitised healthcare information of individuals across their lifespan.


Data Localisation and World Trade Organisation Rules

New Zealand Law Foundation’s 2017 Doctoral Scholarship: Nikita Melashchenko (Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington)

Value: $30,000
Anticipated completion: March 2020

Project description:
Nikita’s doctoral research looks at how data localisation measures implemented by many states might contradict World Trade Organisation rules. The problem with data localisation regulations is that they limit the flow of data important to the development and the success of international trade. Nikita’s research involves three main tasks. First, he will test the legality of certain regulatory measures of the Russian Federation regarding data processing and transfer against the WTO Marrakesh Agreement. Secondly, Nikita will attempt to define the boundaries of states’ regulatory autonomy related to data, based on the acquired results. Lastly, he will consider the possibility of developing regulatory approaches that would preserve the balance between the right to regulate data in pursuit of legitimate policy objectives and obligations under the WTO international trade regime.


Artificial Intelligence and Law in New Zealand

Principal investigators: Associate Professor Colin Gavaghan (Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies, Faculty of Law, University of Otago), Associate Professor Ali Knott (Department of Computer Science, University of Otago), and Professor James Maclaurin (Department of Philosophy, University of Otago)

Research grant awarded: Provisional award of $337,217 approved, with a further tranche to come.
Anticipated completion: January 2020

Project description:
The proposed research involves a three-year multidisciplinary research study evaluating legal and policy implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for New Zealand. The study will address general themes and challenges associated with AI and will contain several specific sub-themes. The major research questions will relate to:

  • challenges posed by autonomous and semi-autonomous machines to notions of responsibility and culpability;
  • questions of transparency and scrutability posed by decision-making algorithms, with particular reference to the criminal justice system;
  • questions relating to employment, and in particular the replacement of human jobs by AI; and
  • questions of ‘machine morality’, and the normative rules with which autonomous machines will be programmed.
For more information, please visit their project website


‘Smart Contracts’ and the Digitalisation of Law

Principal investigator: Dr James Every-Palmer QC (Stout Street Chambers, Wellington)

Research grant awarded: $19,250
Anticipated completion: March 2019

Project description:
The proposed research will assess the work being done on “smart contracts” (that is, contracts that run as computer code) including the development of formal programming languages for contracts. The study will survey current smart contract developments, identify potential opportunities for, and limitations of, these technologies, and as a case study, consider the potential for smart contracts to facilitate the digitalisation of the law, particularly legislation.

For more information, please visit the researcher’s website


Regulation of New Technology: Institutions and Processes

Principal investigator: Dr James Every-Palmer QC (Stout Street Chambers, Wellington)

Research grant awarded: $22,250

Project description:
The goal of this study is to consider which institutions and processes are most appropriate for accommodating new technologies into New Zealand’s regulatory and legal frameworks. The research will map the kinds of issues which new technologies commonly give rise to; consider the current approach to accommodating new technologies; and look at alternative institutional and procedural options based on first principles and the experience of other countries. New technologies and associated business models such as bitcoin, drones, Uber, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, grid scale battery technologies and digital rights management give rise to a wide variety of regulatory issues. The proposed study will seek to understand what overarching lessons can be learnt about the appropriate regulatory institutions and processes for accommodating such technologies.

For more information, please visit the researcher’s website
Research Publication: Regulation of New Technology – Institutions and Processes


Realising the Potential of Autonomous Vehicles in New Zealand

New Zealand Law Foundation’s 2016 International Research Fellow: Michael Cameron, LLB BSc (Lead Legislation Solicitor, Department of Corrections)

Value: $125,000 (max)
Completed: April 2018

Project description:
The aim of the project is to undertake research into the options for reforming the law to facilitate the safe and successful deployment of autonomous vehicles in New Zealand. The project will envisage the ideal scenarios for autonomous vehicle use in New Zealand, and investigate the ways current law may encourage or hinder this. This will lead to identifying how the laws could be amended to encourage excellent outcomes.

Research Publication: Realising the Potential of Driverless Vehicles – recommendations for law reform


Regulating Digital Currencies That Use Blockchain Technology

Principal investigator: Associate Professor Alexandra Sims (University of Auckland – Business School)

Research grant awarded: $52,467
Anticipated completion: July 2018

Project description:
This project will explore the way in which law should be developed and provide a framework of best practice-recommendations for how blockchain technology in the banking sector should be regulated. Blockchain technology is poised to disrupt and revolutionise a number of industries, not least the finance industry. Blockchain technology allows the creation of a robust, decentralised method of recording and confirming transactions through a peer consensus process, as opposed to the longstanding practice of using a centralised platform such as a bank or credit card provider to verify transactions. This innovation eliminates the traditional middleman and gate keepers such as banks. A fundamental characteristic of blockchain systems is that transactions are made using a ‘cryptocurrency’, in which the identities of involved parties are masked by way of encryption therefore allowing payments that are anonymous and secure. The project aims to provide a framework that can be applied in practice by the legislature and thus the regulators, the project team is interdisciplinary and comprises a mix of legal and banking/finance academics.

For more information, please visit their lead investigator’s website
Research Publication: Regulating Cryptocurrencies in New Zealand


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