Victoria law alumna Amelia Keene is the 2012 winner of the New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Scholarship for outstanding women scholars holding a New Zealand university law degree.
With the scholarship, worth $50,000, Amelia is going to study a Master of Laws (LL.M.) specialising in fresh water regulation at Columbia University, New York.
The Master’s programme is principally by course work but she also plans to complete a research paper comparing regulatory models of fresh water management in New Zealand and the United States, focusing on environmental federalism.
Keene says that there is debate around federalism in the United States and tension between State and Federal regulatory powers. “The term ‘environmental federalism’ is used to capture this tension.
“This is a particular issue in the environmental context, where, for resources like freshwater, there is a lot of argument about whether national regulation provides the best environmental outcomes. The debate in the US has also focused on the underlying economic and public participation implications. But federalism hasn’t been the focus of academic commentary here,” she says.
The central thesis is that New Zealand’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, which came into effect in July 2011, represents a shift away from regional council autonomy towards central government control.
“I don’t necessarily think centralism is bad, the question is how we can best structure it to achieve the right balance.”
Amelia says the award allows her to pursue an interest she feels very strongly about.
“I haven’t had the chance to do a lot of environmental law thus far, so this gives me the opportunity to develop a specialisation. It has come at exactly the right time.”
Currently a solicitor at Chapman Tripp Sheffield Young in Wellington, Amelia was formerly a clerk for the President of the Court of Appeal, the Hon. Justice O’Regan, She was admitted to the bar in 2010.
Amelia gained a First Class Honours degree in law and a BA in History and Philosophy from Victoria University where in 2009 she was President of the Victoria Law Students’ Society, and she has also taught at the Faculty of Law as a Law Tutor and Teaching Fellow.
The Ethel Benjamin Scholarship honours New Zealand’s first woman barrister and solicitor, who was admitted to the bar in 1897. Since the centenary of this event, the Law Foundation has awarded this scholarship annually to outstanding New Zealand women law graduates for post-graduate study.