This is a single section from Chapter 12. Read the full chapter here.

Have you considered the specific definitions and meanings of expressions in Part 5 of the Interpretation Act 1999?

Legislation should apply the definitions in Part 5 of the Interpretation Act. New legislation should not re-state those definitions.


Part 5 of the Interpretation Act defines what certain words and phrases mean. It is not necessary to re-state these rules in new legislation, although it may be helpful to readers to include a flagging provision identifying that the following words and phrases will have the meaning given to them by the Interpretation Act:


  • Act, enactment, Order in Council, Proclamation, regulations
  • commencement
  • Commonwealth country; part of the Commonwealth
  • de facto partner; de facto relationship
  • enactment
  • Gazette
  • Governor-General in Council
  • Minister & consular officer
  • Month and working day (but not “week”)
  • New Zealand, North Island, South Island


  • territorial limits of New Zealand; limits of New Zealand
  • person
  • prescribed
  • public notice; public notification
  • repeal
  • regulations
  • rules of court
  • writing
  • words that use the prefix “step-“ (such as step-parent)
  • Definitions of “Act”, “Governor”, “land”, and “Person” in enactments passed before the Interpretation Act


Again, particular statutes can define these words and phrases differently; but only if necessary. See, for example, the definition of “public notice” in s 5 of the Local Government Act 2002; and the many different statutory definitions of “working day”, including several that exclude the period from Christmas to mid-January.

Part 5 also includes rules for the interpretation of:


  • words that denote the masculine gender used in enactments before and after enactment of the Interpretation Act;
  • the use of parts of speech and grammatical forms of words;
  • the use of plural and singular words;
  • the calculation of time and distance.

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