LAW 211 - Public Law

Credit points: 30 points
Offered: Full-year
Contact hours: Lectures - 3 hours per week, 8 tutorials - 1 hour per fortnight
Course Directors: Professor Janet McLean
Prerequisites: LAW 121G & LAW 131
Corequisite: LAW 298 or 299

Course description

The principles and workings of the New Zealand constitution; the powers, privileges and immunities of the three branches of government; the exercise and control of public power; the Māori dimension and the Treaty of Waitangi; the relationship between the individual and the state.

Content outline

  • An introduction to key concepts and principles.
  • The Legislative branch: evolution of the law-making power of the New Zealand Parliament, the nature of legislative power, the concept of parliamentary supremacy, the impact of factors suggesting limits on that supremacy; the interpretation of enactments in light of individual rights including those affirmed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the doctrine of parliamentary privilege.
  • The Executive branch: an introduction to Cabinet, responsible government and the formation of governments, the concept of the Crown, the powers of the executive including royal prerogative powers, the role and powers of the Governor-General. May also include introduction to the Official Information Act 1982, public interest immunity.
  • The Judicial branch: source and nature of judicial power, judicial independence, contempt of court, judicial immunity, accountability of the judiciary.
  • The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990: its basic operation and selected case studies concerning particular rights.
  • Introduction to administrative law: legal controls on the power of public bodies and agencies, including the principles of natural justice, and delegated legislation.
  • The Māori dimension: common law doctrine of aboriginal title, the Treaty of Waitangi, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and their implications in the field of Public Law.


Assessment in this course consists of:

  • tutorial quizzes
  • first semester test
  • second semester tutorial essay/opinion
  • final exam 

Plussage applies to the test and essay components in LAW 211.

Plussage is a system that enables the best possible final mark for a course providing the requirements are met.

Students must achieve a minimum of 45% in the examination for plussage to apply.

All coursework must be completed for plussage to apply.

If a student does not achieve a minimum of 45% in the examination, and/or does not complete the test, or does not complete the essay, plussage will not apply.

If plussage does not apply the mark for the course will be calculated as:

Exam (95%), tutorial quizzes (5%) 

If a student completes all coursework (the test and the essay) and achieves at least 45% in the exam, plussage will apply.

The mark will be calculated by: EITHER exam (70%), test (15%), essay (10%), tutorial quizzes (5%);

OR exam (95%), tutorial quizzes (5%);

whichever results in the higher grade. 

Please note the tutorial essay is a compulsory course requirement. Students must receive a passing mark for the tutorial essay to pass the course, regardless of whether plussage applies. Students will not receive a grade for this course unless a passing essay is completed.

Both the test and the final exam are open book. This means that you may, if you wish, bring into the test and exam and refer to any materials such as casebooks, textbooks and study notes.

Recommended text

Advice will be given at the commencement of the course.