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Law Foundation funds major Treaty project

1 December 2005

Law Foundation funds major Treaty project

The New Zealand Law Foundation has announced funding for a major research project on how New Zealand’s law and constitution should deal with the Treaty of Waitangi.

The 2005 NZ Law Foundation International Research Fellowship Te Karahipi Rangahau A Taiao has been awarded to Professor Matthew Palmer, currently Director of the New Zealand Centre for Public Law at Victoria University of Wellington.

Professor Palmer has been awarded $95,960. His findings will be completed by 2008.

Law Foundation Chairman, James Johnston said: “The New Zealand Law Foundation believes this is a highly important project which has the potential to provide definitive writing in an area of substantial public interest. It is a very timely project and should be of immense value in ongoing public dialogues.

“Professor Matthew Palmer is an extremely worthy recipient and an ideal person to carry out this work. He is well qualified and as a highly regarded commentator on constitutional affairs, his work is likely to be widely respected,” he said.

Professor Palmer’s work will identify and recommend improvements in the way in which New Zealand’s branches of government deal with each other over Treaty issues and the mechanisms by which the Crown deals with Maori over Treaty issues.

While there is an increasing amount of academic literature dealing with Treaty of Waitangi issues, Professor Palmer says his project is unique in the combination of its foundation in conceptual academic theory and its grounding, and focus of recommendations on the practical realities of dealing with the Treaty in the law and government.

He said: “I believe that there is no more important topic in New Zealand’s constitution than the place of the Treaty of Waitangi. When I co-chaired a series of debates about aspects of the Treaty, 300 people turned up - Maori and pakeha - ordinary citizens, motivated by a genuine desire to understand an important set of issues.

“We need practical suggestions of how to improve the way in which New Zealand government deals with treaty issues and how it deals with Maori. These practical suggestions should be rooted in coherent conceptual underpinnings. This project offers to do that, “he said.

Professor Palmer has been Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of Law at Victoria University and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Public Law since January 2001. His term expires in 2006. For the previous five years, he was the Deputy Secretary for Justice (Public Law) in the Ministry of Justice.

His research will be carried out in New Zealand, at Yale University in the United States and at Cambridge University in England. The major part of his work will be presented as a book.

The Law Foundation’s International Fellowship enables recipients to study areas of public importance and interest to New Zealand.

The 2004 recipient of the Law Foundation Fellowship was Alex Conte, a senior lecturer in international law at the University of Canterbury. He is undertaking a comparative study of the interface between counter-terrorism and human rights.


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