About the Centre

Purpose and history

The New Zealand Centre for Public Law was established at Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Law in 1996 by the University Council with the funding assistance of the Victoria University of Wellington Foundation.

The functions of the Centre are to:

  • stimulate awareness and interest in public law issues
  • provide a forum for the discussion of these issues
  • foster and promote research of these issues.

The Centre is a liaison point for the Law Faculty’s external relationships on public law issues and in conjunction with other related parts of the wider Victoria University of Wellington community.

Public law has traditionally been, and continues to be, defined broadly in relation to the Centre. The following definition of “public law”, adopted in 2001, continues to reflect the focus of the Centre:

  • law affecting the relationship of the state with individuals and groups of individuals and other states; or
  • more broadly, as all law that is not private law governing relationships between individuals and groups of individuals.

Public law therefore includes law relating to:

  • the constitution
  • the rule of law and separation of powers
  • the electoral system
  • the organisation of government
  • the Treaty of Waitangi
  • human rights and privacy
  • immigration
  • medico-legal issues
  • the court system
  • the criminal justice system
  • taxation
  • the public health system
  • the public education system
  • the resource management system
  • the regulation of the economy and various aspects of commerce including occupational regulation
  • public international law.

Involvement with the Centre is a good way of keeping up with developments in public law. The Centre’s activities revolve around hosting conferences, seminars and other events to debate and influence the public law issues of most current topical concern. The aim is to add to the public debates on these issues by making accessible the key facts and different perspectives on the issues; and by providing fora for engaging with and sparking dialogue with key decision-makers as well as learned commentators.

The NZ Centre for Public Law engages with politicians, public servants, the judiciary, the legal profession, academics, distinguished international visitors, and everyone else who wishes to help shape the current issues of our democracy.

Previous directors

  • 1996–1997: Paul Walker, Senior Lecturer, BCL MA Oxf
  • 1997–1998: Janet McLean, Senior Lecturer, LLB (Hons) VUW LLM Michigan
  • 1999–2000: Dr Alex Frame, Senior Lecturer, LLB Auckland LLM LLD VUW
  • 2001–2006: Professor Matthew Palmer, Dean of Law and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Government Relations), BA Canterbury LLB (Hons) VUW LLM JSD Yale
  • 2006–2007: (as Acting Co-Directors), Claudia Geiringer, Senior Lecturer, BA (Hons) Otago, LLB VUW, LLM Columbia and Dean Knight, Lecturer, LLB(Hons) BCA VUW, LLM UBC
  • 2007–2013: Professor Tony Smith, Dean of Law and Pro-Vice Chancellor LLM Cant, LLD Cantab; Barrister and Honorary Bencher (Middle Temple)
  • 2013–2018: (as Acting Co-Directors), Claudia Geiringer, Senior Lecturer, BA (Hons) Otago, LLB VUW, LLM Columbia and Dean Knight, Lecturer, LLB(Hons) BCA VUW, LLM UBC