New Zealand Law Society - Law Reform Committee

Law Reform Committee

The Law Reform Committee oversees all of the Law Society’s law reform work. The LRC reviews bills before Parliament, as well as government and Law Commission law reform proposals. Committee members draft the Law Society’s submissions on bills and discussion papers, with assistance from NZLS specialist committees and the Family Law and Property Law Sections.

About us

The Law Society is an important participant in New Zealand law reform, and has a reputation for making a careful and impartial contribution to law reform, the administration of justice and the rule of law.

The Law Reform Committee supports the Law Society in fulfilling its statutory function under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, to assist and promote law reform “for the purpose of upholding the rule of law and facilitating the administration of justice in New Zealand”.

The LRC coordinates and oversees all NZLS submissions, based on input from NZLS specialist committees and Sections, as well as interested members and branch committees.

Our people

The LRC comprises members with a passion for law reform:

  • Nick Whittington (Deputy Convenor)
  • Esther Watt (Deputy Convenor)
  • David Cochrane
  • Elizabeth Fellows
  • Matthew Harris
  • Rob Kirkness
  • Alistair Logan
  • Jonathan Orpin-Dowell
  • Jack Wass
  • Gary Hughes
  • Tim Bain
  • Megan Ball
  • Sebastian Bisley

The convenors of the NZLS specialist committees and chairs of the Property Law and Family Law Sections also sit on the LRC.

The LRC convenor is Tim Stephens. Tim is a barrister at Stout Street Chambers in Wellington, practising in the areas of commercial, regulatory and public law. He has been in practice since 1995, including time at a leading litigation firm in London, was a partner at Simpson Grierson 2006 to 2016, and joined the independent bar in 2017.

Recent work

The past 18 months have been exceptionally busy for NZLS law reform. The LRC played a central role in finalising NZLS submissions on a diverse range of reform topics, including submissions on:

Criminal law and human rights 

  • sexual violence trial reforms
  • victims’ rights
  • court-appointed Communications Assistance: proposed Quality Framework
  • Police Detention Legal Assistance scheme improvements
  • objectionable publications and online harm
  • ‘revenge porn’
  • drug-driving regulation
  • abortion services ‘safe areas’
  • Firearms Prohibition Orders
  • New Zealand Bill of Rights: mechanisms for Executive and Parliament to respond to senior courts’ declarations of inconsistency
  • criminal jurisdiction improvements (reforms to address delays in criminal trials, etc)

Constitutional, public law and the rule of law

  • Parliament’s Standing Orders 2020 review
  • New Zealanders’ access to secondary legislation (regulations)
  • terrorism suppression
  • legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • select committee inquiry into the efficacy of emergency COVID-19 legislation
  • legality of New Zealand’s COVID-19 restrictions, judicial review proceedings: NZLS intervenor submissions, in the public interest
  • Supreme Court: publication of proceedings – change proposals

Electoral law

  • enabling voter engagement
  • prisoners’ voting
  • MPs’ free speech and integrity of the electoral system

Civil litigation, and commercial law

  • civil litigation, proposed procedural reforms to improve access to justice
  • costs for litigants-in-person and other litigants
  • dispute resolution – guidance standards
  • class actions and litigation funding: Law Commission Issues Paper
  • Climate-related financial disclosure

Intellectual property law

  • intellectual property hearings: case management proposals
  • competition law – safe harbours for intellectual property rights

Tax law

  • annual taxation legislation
  • concerns re the quality of tax legislation and consultation processes: independent review
  • trusts annual return/disclosure requirements, urgent remedial amendments
  • tax avoidance

Employment law

  • protections for contractors
  • screen industry workers
  • protection for public interest (‘whistleblower’) disclosures
  • bullying and harassment at work

Environmental law

  • draft National Policy Statements on highly productive land, urban development
  • Crown pastoral land reform

Immigration and refugee law

  • temporary migrant worker exploitation
  • refugee protection claims: hearings process
  • COVID-19, immigration system: extension of fast-tracked “mass” visa changes

Youth justice

  • youth jurisdiction ‘demerit’ penalty proposals


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