Seminar: ‘Towards a History of Mediation in New Zealand’, Dr Grant Morris

For the past few decades mediation has been optimistically heralded as the “way of the future” in New Zealand’s legal system.  The history of mediation in NZ can be traced back to developments in industrial relations in the late 19th century, but as a self-aware, dynamic, widespread movement its beginnings are much more recent.  Led by developments in employment and family law, the modern NZ mediation movement took off in the 1980s and continued to grow until at least the 2010s.  With the exception of commercial mediation, all the main examples of mediation in NZ’s legal system reflect strong state leadership.  This is not to say that private individuals and institutions blindly followed government initiatives.  Indeed, many government initiatives were inspired by private voices, but ultimately these were government initiatives, publicly founded and controlled by the state.  There is no real history of organic, community-based mediation in NZ’s legal system.  This clearly differentiates its history from the United States.

NZ’s mediation movement is part of a global trend, especially in common law jurisdictions.  Court overload, high litigation costs, social changes and subsequent challenges to traditional approaches of resolving disputes led to calls for mediation, conciliation and negotiation to supplement, and even replace, adversarial litigation.  In NZ the response to these issues has been ad hoc and pragmatic, in line with NZ’s wider legal history and stereotypical ‘number 8 wire’ mentality.  There has been no concentrated and systematic attempt to integrate mediation into the NZ legal system but rather an ongoing piecemeal incorporation spanning over four decades.

This work is the first attempt to provide a history of mediation in NZ.

Grant Morris is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Victoria University of Wellington. His research and teaching specialty areas are New Zealand legal history and negotiation and mediation. Grant is the author of “Law Alive: The NZ Legal System in Context” (OUP), “Prendergast: Legal Villain?” (VUP), “Mediation in NZ” (Thomson Reuters) and numerous articles and chapters. He is a facilitator and accredited mediator with the Resolution Institute.

 Venue:            Old Kirk 406 (F L Wood Seminar Room)

Date:               Friday, 18 May 2018

Time:              12:10pm to 1:30pm

For more information: Contact Dr Cybèle Locke (; 04 463 6774).