'Premier legal research award' for Otago senior law lecturer

University of Otago senior law lecturer Ceri Warnock has become the 2013 New Zealand Law Foundation International Research Fellow.

The fellowship is New Zealand's ''premier legal research award'', and provides up to $125,000 each year to ''enable an individual of outstanding ability'' to undertake legal research that would make a significant contribution to New Zealand.

Ms Warnock's research will be undertaken in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, and will focus on ''The New Zealand Environment Court: Importance and Limitations''.

She plans to conduct the first comprehensive objective legal analysis of the court, in its 36-year history.

She aimed to ''fill that gap'' and foster an informed debate about the court's future role, she said.

The study would examine the question about how sense could be made of the ''seeming paradox'' between the importance of the court in developing environmental law, and ''the limitations within which it works''.

She plans to publish a monograph, based on her research.

She practised as a barrister in Manchester, England, before joining the Otago University law faculty in 2006 as a lecturer, becoming a senior lecturer in 2009, foundation officials said.

She is also the co-author and author of books on resource management law in New Zealand.

The award was presented to her earlier this month by the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins.