2023 Kirby Seminar series

Tuesday 24 October, 12.00pm

Via Zoom or On-Campus at Lewis Seminar Room, W38. School of Law 


New tricks for old doctrines: Opening the common law ‘toolbox’

to address climate change induced damage to property and the environment

Professor David Grinlinton

Faculty of Law, University of Auckland


If interested and to obtain a link, please register for this Kirby Seminar at


In this Kirby Seminar, Professor David Grinlinton will discuss the fact that extreme weather events in many countries clearly demonstrate the clear and present danger posed by climate change to the safety and well-being of people and communities, to land, agricultural production and other natural resources, and generally to environmental and ecological values. The extreme weather and cyclonic activity in New Zealand in January-February 2023, was a recent example.

However, legal accountability and redress for those most seriously affected has received surprisingly little attention. The common law ‘toolbox’ offers various possibilities to address both the causes and effects of these impacts. These include actions seeking greater government and private sector accountability for matters like greenhouse gas emissions, and more direct remedies for public and private property damage resulting from inadequate government agency and local authority decision-making, as well as private sector practices in the use and development of natural resources.

This seminar will examine recent developments, including existing common law options and remedies, with the possibilities for further development of rules and doctrines such as public nuisance, the ‘public trust’ doctrine, and the doctrine of waste.

David Grinlinton VRD, BA (Massey), LLB (Hons) (Auckland), LLM (UWA), MDS (RMC Canada) is a Barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. He joined the University of Auckland Faculty of Law in 1990 following time in legal practice in the property and energy sectors. His teaching and research includes real property law, environmental and natural resources law, housing law, and policy. He has published widely in these areas and is a regular presenter at local and international conferences and symposia. David is a Founding Member of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, General Editor of the New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law and co-author of Salmon and Grinlinton Environmental Law in New Zealand (2nd ed Thomson Reuters, 2018).