Professor David Vernon Williams

BA-LLB (VUW), BCL (Oxon), PhD (Dar es Salaam), Dip Theol (Oxon).

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Emeritus Professor


Dr David V Williams FRSNZ is a Professor Emeritus and Honorary Research Fellow in the Faculty of Law at The University of Auckland. After study at the Victoria University of Wellington, he was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. He has tertiary qualifications in history, law and theology including a PhD from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He has taught at the University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Auckland. He was an independent researcher and barrister (1991-2001) specialising in legal history research relevant to Treaty of Waitangi claims.

For many years he was an activist in the Citizens Association for Racial Equality (CARE). He has worked with many iwi, but especially with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei from the days of the Bastion Point/Takaparawhau occupation in the 1970s through to the enactment of the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Treaty Settlement Act 2012. He continues to be engaged as an independent researcher by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and other iwi as an expert witness and litigation adviser.

His book publications include the Māori Land Legislation Manual (& database)(CFRT, 1994/1995); 'Te Kooti tango whenua': The Native Land Court 1864-1909 (Huia, 1999); Crown Policy Affecting Māori Knowledge Systems and Cultural Practices(Waitangi Tribunal, 2001); Matauranga Māori and Taonga (Waitangi Tribunal, 2001); joint editor and contributor to Waitangi Revisited: Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi (OUP, 2005); A simple nullity?: The Wi Parata case in New Zealand Law and History (AUP, 2011); and (with Cris Shore) Shapeshifting Crown: Locating the State in Post-Colonial New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK (CUP, 2019) – the major output of a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund grant. Additional publications include 22 book chapters, 38 refereed journal articles and 11 major technical reports submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal or the Office of Treaty Settlements. He has held a number of visiting positions at the University of Oxford and the University of Dar es Salaam (listed below under Distinctions/Honours).

Research | Current

The Waitangi Tribunal: Past, present and future; The "Crown" in the constitution and in national life (especially Crown-Māori relationships); Colonial legal history; Tikanga in the common law of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Teaching | Current

No current teaching responsibilities.

Postgraduate supervision

PhD completions:

Neil Vallance. “Sharing The Land: The Formation of the Vancouver Island (or ‘Douglas’) Treaties of 1850-1854 in Historical, Legal and Comparative Context.” (University of Victoria, BC, 2016)

Ned Fletcher, “A Praiseworthy Device for Amusing and Pacifying Savages?” (2014)

Carwyn Jones, “The Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Process in Maori Legal History.” (University of Victoria, BC, 2013)

David Harvey, "The Law Emprynted and Englysshed: The Printing Press as an agent of change in law and legal culture 1475-1642." (2012)

Guy Charlton, “Constitutional Conflicts and Aboriginal Rights” (2010)

Eric Kwa, “Traditionalizing Sustainable Development: Law, Policy and Practice in Papua New Guinea" (2006)

Nin Tomas, “Key concepts of Tikanga Māori (Māori Custom Law)” (2006)

Jane Kelsey, “Rogernomics and the Treaty of Waitangi” (1991)

Masters thesis completions:


Sarah Phillips, "Review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004" (2009)

Dominic Wilson, “Binding recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal” (2001)


Joanne Fraser, “Embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi into Business in Aotearoa New Zealand: A South Island Approach” (2018)


Jai Patel, “The Legitimate Crown? Assumed and Contested Meanings of a Political Symbol” (Anthropology, 2016) 

Sally Raudon, “The Australian Crown” (Anthropology, 2016)

Jen Margaret, “Knowledge building in social movements” (Development Studies, 2009)


Visiting Fellow, Exeter College, Oxford (2009)

Visiting Professor, University of Dar es Salaam (2010)

Visiting Research Associate, St John's College Research Centre, Oxford (2014)

Visiting Research Scholar, Corpus Christi College, Oxford (2017)

Honorary Fellow, American Society for Legal History (2017)

Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi (2018)


Rhodes Scholarship Advisor, University of Auckland.

Member, Fellowships Humanities Panel, Royal Society of New Zealand | Te Apārangi

Areas of expertise

Treaty of Waitangi issues, colonial legal history, constitutional law, tikanga in state law.

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Chairperson, St Isaac's Retreat House Trust, Pakanae, Hokianga

Priest, Anglican Church: Taonga Whakamana (Hui Amorangi ki Te Tai Tokerau); Permission to Officiate (Diocese of Auckland)   

Co-Chairperson, Earthsong Centre Trust    

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Harris, M., & Williams, D. V. (2020). Community checkpoints are an important and lawful part of NZ’s Covid response. Related URL.
  • Williams, D. (2019). The continuing impact of amalgamation, assimilation and integration policies. JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF NEW ZEALAND, 49, 34-47. 10.1080/03036758.2019.1677252
  • Williams, D. V. (2019). Fiduciary Duty Remedies Stripped of Historical Encumbrances. New Zealand Law Review, 2019 (1), 39-60. Related URL.
  • Shore, C., & Williams, D. V. (Eds.) (2019). The Shapeshifting Crown: Locating the State in Postcolonial New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pages: 288. 10.1017/9781108677738
  • Williams, D. V. (2018). From loyal dominion to new republic: Which realm will get there first?. Round Table, 107 (4), 507-522. 10.1080/00358533.2018.1494688
  • Williams, D. V. (2018). Originalism and the constitutional canon of Aotearoa New Zealand. In M. Hickford, C. Jones (Eds.) Indigenous Peoples and the State : International Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi (pp. 57-74). Abingdon Oxon: Routledge.
  • Williams, D. V. (2017). Myths and history: The Treaty of Waitangi as "The Magna Charta of New Zealand". In S. Winter, C. Jones (Eds.) Magna Carta and New Zealand: History, politics and law in Aotearoa (pp. 45-64). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1007/978-3-319-58439-3
  • Williams, D. V. (2016). The role of legal history in developing New Zealand common law following Paki (No 2). New Zealand Law Review, 2016 (4), 755-787.


Contact details

Office hours

e-mail for specific appointments.

Primary office location

1-11 SHORT STREET - Bldg 810
Level 7, Room 737
New Zealand

Web links