The Harkness Henry Lecture - Law Making in New Zealand: Is There a Better Way?

41 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2014 Last revised: 11 Jan 2017

See all articles by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 10, 2014


This lengthy article reviews the preparation, passage through Parliament, and presentation of the New Zealand statute law. It asserts that law-making is a function of upmost importance to society as a whole and that it needs to be carried out as systematically as possible. It reviews the processes by which laws are made in New Zealand, the scrutiny of Bills by Select Committees, and the increasing bulk of statute law that poses issues from the rule of law point of view. Statute law alone occupies 65,000 pages of the statute book and the average length of statutes is becoming longer. There is an analysis of the effects of MMP on the parliamentary process for considering legislation and the weaknesses of parliamentary scrutiny in New Zealand. These have attracted substantial academic criticism in recent years. There is an analysis of the need for evaluating legislation after it has been passed, to see whether it met the purposes for which it was passed. The paper argues a more systematic means of post-legislative scrutiny should be adopted. While presentation, drafting and accessibility have been improved, there is a need for an Index to the New Zealand statutes. The article concludes with proposals for root and branch reform of the legislative process in New Zealand, so that it produces legislation of higher quality, that the process is less rushed, that routine maintenance of the statute book can be properly performed, and that the processes for making big new legislative schemes be much more systematic, open and transparent.

Keywords: Statute law, New Zealand, law reform, legislative process, MMP, constitutional law

JEL Classification: K00, K19

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, Sir Geoffrey, The Harkness Henry Lecture - Law Making in New Zealand: Is There a Better Way? (September 10, 2014). Waikato Law Review, Vol. 22, 2014; Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper No. 82/2015. Available at SSRN:

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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