Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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New Zealand’s Public Trust Doctrine

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posted on 2021-12-07, 13:00 authored by Hulley, Nicola Jane

This paper presents an argument that there is a public trust doctrine which is part of New Zealand’s common law. The public doctrine imposes an obligation on administrative decision-makers, with respect to decisions that impact commonly held natural resources, to act in the interests of the public. I argue the doctrine was inherited by New Zealand in 1840, as part of the English common law, and that it has been subsequently recognised in the New Zealand common law. I also argue that the doctrine has not been extinguished by the Resource Management Act 1991 or the Marine Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011: the common law doctrine supplements these regulatory regimes. My argument concludes that the doctrine is best conceived of as a ground of judicial review, perhaps under the heading of illegality, and that there are strong normative arguments for its augmentation by common law development or legislative codification.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Laws

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970118 Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Law


Knight, Dean; Angelo, Tony