Welcome to New Zealand's Lost Cases Project

The New Zealand's Lost Cases project involves the systematic search for, and collation of, early New Zealand cases. These cases exist, not in law reports, but in newspapers, manuscript collections, archives and judges notebooks. Many of these cases have been simply forgotten. While New Zealand had comparatively good early law reporting, only a selection of cases were formally reported. The project is primarily concerned with decisions of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal up until 1883 and the Native Land Court, 1863-1895. We have currently entered all Supreme Court and Court of Appeal cases for the period 1842-1869.

There are two searchable databases - the Source Database which shows where court records can be found around New Zealand for the period 1840-1883 and the Case Database that provides a record of all cases heard by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal in the period 1842-1869.

The project website also includes a series of relevant Ordinances and Acts from the 1840s and 1850s. These are available for download in PDF.

A number of articles and chapters containing material uncovered by the Lost Cases project have now been been published. A list of this work, along with relevant conference papers and postgraduate work are available here.

New Zealand's Lost Cases Project is funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation. The Project is also overseen by a Reference Group, composed of eminent persons from New Zealand and overseas.


The Banner Image is taken from C.W. Richmond Judge's Notebooks, Vol.1-3, 1864-1873, MSS R532,
J.C. Beaglehole Room, Victoria University of Wellington