Public Law

Our expertise

Chen Palmer’s reputation for excellence is built on our record of excellence and having 18 years of experience advising clients.  In addition to public law litigation, we provide expert advice on public law issues including law and policy reform, decisions by Government or statutory bodies and inquiries and reviews.

Chen Palmer's main areas of specialist expertise are in solving legal, regulatory and policy problems with or within the Government and its various agencies, for example:

  • Decisions by the Government or statutory bodies, either by public law litigation or by using the public law toolbox, including using and complaining under the Official Information Act 1982, the Ombudsmen Act 1975, the Privacy Act 1993, the Public Audit Act 2001, the Human Rights Act 1993, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
  • Inquiries and reviews, including Royal Commissions, Commissions of Inquiry, Ministerial Inquiries, statutory inquiries, Select Committee Inquiries, and reviews and audits by the Auditor-General.
  • Current or proposed legislation, including law reform and advocating for or against new law reform and advice on Bills currently being considered by Parliament.
  • Government policy, including advocating for policy changes where that is a more efficient outcome than law reform or litigation, and advising on ongoing policy processes.
  • Parliamentary procedure, including matters of privilege, natural justice and the Standing Orders, as well as the Regulations Review Committee and the Regulations (Disallowance) Act 1989.

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Working with Parliament

Chen Palmer's Parliament team is co-led by James Dunne.  The Parliament team can assist you and your business including:

  • Legislation - providing advice on the legislative process, including where a Bill is up to, whether it will be enacted, and timeframes.
  • Select committees - making submissions to select committees, taking part in select committee inquiries including appearance at hearings.
  • Parliamentary processes such as parliamentary questions, including how they can be used to help you and your business and how to minimise the risks from such questions.
  • Natural justice, including rights of reply to adverse statements in Parliament, bias on select committees and the exclusion of damaging evidence from select committees.

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Working with Government

Chen Palmer's Government team is co-led by Marina Matthews (former advisor to four senior Ministers, including the then Deputy Prime Minister).  The Government team has extensive experience in advising clients on a range of government processes including:

  • Policy development and reform - advising on key policy processes and decision-makers, including Cabinet and its processes, to ensure our clients can effectively inform the development of policy.
  • Working with government agencies - we have experience in advising clients on policies and processes across all types of government agencies including the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Health, Tertiary Education Commission, Department of Conservation, Department of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Commerce Commission, Overseas Investment Office, Ministry of Justice, Treasury and State Services Commission.

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Administrative law

Chen Palmer's administrative law team is led by Mai Chen.  The team advises on government decision-making and whether or not such decision-making complies with public law obligations.  The team is also able to give litigation advice as well as provide non-litigation options for the resolution of administrative law problems with the government.

The administrative law team peer reviews the work of the entire public law team.

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Human Rights

As a core area of both public and employment law, Chen Palmer is involved in the cutting edge of human rights law in New Zealand and internationally. Human rights law is an often overlooked legal area that we have expertise in; particularly in the public law sphere and how international human rights obligations impact on New Zealand’s domestic obligations. Understanding these obligations and how to apply them produces great results for our clients.

We provide both employers and employees advice and representation regarding their rights and obligations under human rights law, and we provide representation at the Human Rights Review Tribunal and the High Court.

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Maori Law

Chen Palmer provides specialisist advice to Maori organisations on:

  • Treaty Negotiations: specialist advice on historic Treaty settlement negotiations, including advice on negotiating the terms of an Agreement in Principle and a Deed of Settlement.
  • Iwi & Hapū Governance: advice on Post Settlement Governance Entities during settlement negotiations and, following settlement, advice on best-practice governance and other issues of corporate and iwi entity structuring.
  • Natural Resources Law: advice on all aspects of resource management and natural resources law, including co-governance agreements, water and geothermal issues, fisheries, forestry, petroleum and minerals, and other natural resources regulation.
  • Contemporary Treaty Claims: advice on contemporary Treaty claim issues and representation for these claims in the Waitangi Tribunal, the High Court and the higher Courts.
  • Foreshore and Seabed: The team can also advise on applications for customary rights and customary marine title orders or agreements under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.
  • Strategic public law and policy advice: advice on interacting with central and local government in the post-settlement era concerning all contemporary Maori-Crown Treaty issues, regulatory frameworks, and policy development generally.
  • Law reform and Parliamentary relations: advice on law reform; parliamentary process; making submissions; and working with Ministers, Government departments, Crown entities and local authorities.
  • General Commercial advice: advice on commercial arrangements, contracts, joint ventures, company incorporations and company law generally.

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Privacy Law

Our lawyers are experienced in giving clients advice on complex privacy law issues and providing representation in Privacy Act complaints.  We give advice to privacy officers on their obligations, draft privacy policies for organisations, and manage workplace disputes over privacy issues.  We have extensive experience advising on issues such as:

  • Compliance with the Privacy Act 1993 and industry specific Codes of Practice;
  • Complaints to the Privacy Commissioner and claims to the Human Rights Review Tribunal;
  • Civil claims for tortious invasion of privacy; and
  • Information sharing and matching regimes.

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Charities Law

Chen Palmer has significant expertise in advising charities on a range of public law issues. We can assist charitable entities with all aspects of their operations including registration, funding applications, working with Internal Affairs who oversee charities and the Inland Revenue Department.

Many of the issues facing charitable entities back directly into our specialist public law expertise, including our expertise in working with government departments, and our expertise in working with public entities in the health sector, which purchase services from charitable entities.

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Previous Work

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We have advised on most of the major policy and law reforms undertaken by governments over the last eighteen years.  In recent years, Chen Palmer has been involved in some of the most interesting and high-profile public law work in New Zealand.  A very small sample of the work we have undertaken includes:

  • Appearing for Salisbury School in the High Court on judicial review of the Minister of Education's decision under the Education Act to merge the school.
  • Appearing for Whangamata Marina Society in the High Court on the judicial review of the Minister's decision under the Resource Management Act 1991, overturning the Minister's decision and having the decision reconsidered with a successful consent granted for the Marina to be built.
  • Acting for Dr Tony Bierre in his defamation proceeding against the Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the litigation was settled.
  • Advising the Fonterra Shareholders Council on the "Trading Among Farmers" structural reform process.
  • Appearing at the Supreme Court on the regulation of electricity lines businesses' Price Path Threshold by the Commerce Commission.

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