Call on government to boldy go...

New Zealand needs to catch up to the rest of the world in an emerging area of law, one expert says.

New Zealand’s first dedicated space law specialist is calling on government to start implementing domestic law about outer space use within the next five years.

Currently there is little, if any, domestic law pertaining to activities in outer space, Dr Maria Pozza told NZLawyer.

“We use outer space every day, especially through the use of satellites.

“There is a move at the international level towards more international regulatory frameworks but, as is often the case with international law, there is a lot of negotiation involved between states and their delegates, and that takes time.”

Things are happening however, and New Zealand needed to start considering implementing domestic law within the next five years in order to properly reflect the country’s obligations under the international space law, Dr Pozza said.

There are currently five multi-lateral treaties relating to the use of outer space, the main one being the Outer Space Treaty, which was negotiated in 1967.

Other treaties, by their commonly-used names, included the Moon Treaty (1979), the Registration Convention (1975), The Rescue of Astronauts Convention (1968) and The Liability Convention (1968).

“Something that is a concern is that we are still using international treaties of which genesis was borne in the context of the Cold War."

Currently, major space-faring states (nations), such as the United States, and emerging space-faring states, such as China, were relying on these “Cold War treaties” for guidance when conducting activities in outer space, she said.

“New Zealand, I would say, is somewhere on the emerging list as well - we have some activities going on in New Zealand now.”

States were going to have to work together to implement international law.

“If states can work towards building transparent and confidence building measures - with a view to another post-Cold War multilateral space treaty - then that will aid much of the international legal challenges facing space lawyers in the future.”

Examples of good work being done included the implementation of the SKA (Square Kilometre Array Programme) by Australia and South Africa, the world’s largest radio telescope.

“This is both a fantastic illustration of good international relations as well as an excellent example of how developing technology is rapidly progressing.

“[It will] in turn offer more opportunities for states in their exploration of outer space.

“It is very exciting, and as technology continues to develop, we are going to find out so much more.” 

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