Although much of New Zealand`s legal system was inherited from Britain, it developed unique features. For example, there is a universal accident compensation system. This avoids resorting to legal action to obtain compensation for injuries caused by accidents. The system has control mechanisms so that no group in government can become too powerful. The New Zealand Constitution sets out how Parliament, the Executive and the judiciary have their own roles and how they work together to enact, enact, implement and enforce the law. There are several independent authorities to which individuals can seek legal review, including the Office of the Ombudsman, the Independent Police Complaints Body, the Human Rights Commission and the Health and Disability Commissioner. It is also possible to apply for judicial review, where judges consider whether a state measure is lawful. In New Zealand, juries are generally only used for more serious criminal cases. The only civil cases in which juries are frequently used are defamation cases. Historically, there has been no push for a written constitution. New Zealand does not have a federal system of government and has not needed to define the complementary responsibilities of a central government vis-à-vis individual states, territories or provinces. When the 1990 Bill of Rights was passed, there were discussions about formalizing the role of judges in deciding legal matters, which led to a broader debate about the constitutional structure, but this was not pursued at the time. However, the conversation resumes regularly.
In 2011, the government formed a constitutional advisory body to examine options for future constitutional reforms. After public consultation, a report was published in 2013 that essentially called for further discussion on these issues and found no general support for a written constitution. The final report, which also provides a useful overview of current constitutional issues, is available on the website of the Ministry of Justice. Parliament may delegate legislative powers to various bodies, including the executive. This delegation usually takes place in technical areas or in areas subject to significant change, where it would not be possible for Parliament to have to adopt new legislation on a permanent basis. However, the areas of law covered by such delegated legislation may be important. New Zealand`s specific immigration rules, for example, are set by the executive. These legal instruments may be referred to as “delegated legislation”, “subordinate legislation”, “prohibited instruments” or “regulations”. The New Zealand government is guided by the British system (Westminster model) and is based on a concept of separation of powers.
This means that government institutions are divided into 3 branches: The contract has been incorporated into New Zealand law to a limited extent by the Public Enterprises Act 1986. Section 9 of the Act stated: “Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.  The Government had proposed a transfer of assets from former government departments to state-owned enterprises, but as SOEs were essentially government-owned private companies, there was an argument that they would prevent assets donated by Maori for use by the State from being returned to Maori through the Waitangi Tribunal and through contractual arrangements.  The law was challenged in court in 1987, and the New Zealand Maori Council`s decision against the Attorney General defined the “principles of the contract”, and the proposed sale of government assets was found to be contrary to this condition. This allowed the courts to review the Crown`s actions with respect to compliance with the Treaty and established the principle that, if the Treaty is clearly stated in one statute, it takes precedence over the other parts of that statute in the event of a conflict.  “Treaty principles” have become a common theme in contemporary New Zealand politics, and in 1989 the fourth Labour government responded by adopting the “Principles for Crown Action on the Treaty of Waitangi”, a list of principles similar to the 1987 court case.  It is generally believed that the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, is British law in New Zealand. There are many problems with this theory. First, the Maori and English versions of the treaty are fundamentally different.
The English version confers sovereignty on Queen Victoria (in the first clause) and grants the Maori the rights of British subjects (in the third clause). Although no legal system is explicitly mentioned in the treaty, these two clauses seem to imply that British law would be introduced into New Zealand. However, the Maori version states that Victoria receives kawanatanga (governorship), while chiefs retain tino rangatiratanga (absolute chieftaincy) in the second clause, unlike the property rights promised in the English version. Although the third section of the Maori version states that the Queen would treat the Maori in the same way as the people of England, many historians argue that the Māori believed that the new governor would exercise power only over Europeans and that chiefs would continue to rule over the Maori. In the eyes of some modern Maori, New Zealand`s legal system is invalid because it violates the treaty`s promise to be tino rangatiratanga (chief). New Zealand`s subscription-only legal databases (mainly Westlaw NZ, LexisNexis NZ and, for more specific topics, CCH) contain comprehensive compilations of cases, both reported and unreported. This may include material that is removed for the general public, but is made available to lawyers for research purposes. Westlaw and LexisNexis also offer databases of unofficial case summaries and case citation functions, including BriefCase (Westlaw) and LinxPlus (LexisNexis). The Treaty of Waitangi occupies a special and evolving place in New Zealand`s social, legal and political structure. The treaty was signed in 1840 between representatives of the British Crown and various Maori chiefs. There are Maori and English versions of the treaty, which are not always interpreted in a compatible manner. It is now widely recognised as one of New Zealand`s founding documents, but it also has legal significance.
Although the Treaty is only legally binding if it has been incorporated into law, it is relatively common for laws to refer to “Treaty principles” and for measures consistent with those principles to be required. As the principles were never defined by law, this formulation gave rise to extensive judicial debate.