The Evolving Accessibility of New Zealand Law: Redesigning Legislation for Understanding and Empowerment

70 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2018

See all articles by Jessica Jenkins

Jessica Jenkins

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: June 20, 2018

Abstract

For decades, users of the New Zealand statute book have struggled with its complexity; legislation is not only difficult to find, but once found, it is difficult to understand and use. While the standard is certainly improving, ‘ordinary’ readers are still bewildered when attempting to understand legal rights and obligations, and professional users (whether legally trained or not) are frustrated by the time taken to ascertain required conduct. Consequently, New Zealand legislation can be disempowering, has significant productivity costs, and undermines fundamental principles of the rule of law. In a country led by one of the most open and transparent governments in the world, at the forefront of delivering user-centred digital services, this is not good enough.

This paper examines the evolution of the statute book, with a focus on accessibility. It suggests this evolution was informed by a legislative paradigm rooted in tradition, with constrained aspirations of how legislation could be experienced by citizens. It then proposes a new legislative paradigm – designed around the users of legislation, to support and empower every New Zealander to understand the law. Developments consistent with this paradigm are explored, and constraints in the law reform process are assessed, before recommendations are made for ‘first steps’ to set the stage for legislative transformation.

Keywords: Legislation, Statute Book, Law Reform, Accessibility, Human-Centred Design, Legal Design

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Jenkins, Jessica, The Evolving Accessibility of New Zealand Law: Redesigning Legislation for Understanding and Empowerment (June 20, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3200204 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3200204

Jessica Jenkins (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, Victoria 6140
New Zealand

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