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Consultation on revision programme 2021–2023

Page updated 15 March 2021:

The Parliamentary Counsel Office is now consulting on the revision programme for the new Parliament. Please provide feedback by 12 March 2021.

On this page:

What is this consultation about?
How to make a submission
Proposed revision programme for 2021–2023
About the revision process

What is this consultation about?

We are looking for public submissions on the draft revision programme on behalf of the Attorney-General. Your feedback will help us to set the final programme that will be presented to the House of Representatives.

Revision is a process applied to New Zealand’s Acts to make them more accessible. This third programme aligns with the 2021–2023 parliamentary term.

We welcome your views about the Acts we have chosen for this programme. We are also interested in whether you think there are any other Acts that should be on the programme. If so, tell us why.

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How to make a submission

Please send your comments on the revision programme to the Parliamentary Counsel Office, marked for the attention of the Revision Programme Team:

Please supply your name and address (including a telephone number or email address) so that we can contact you if we need to clarify anything in your comments.

Please provide comments by 5pm on 12 March 2021.

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Proposed revision programme for 2021–2023

How Acts are selected

We select Acts that:

  • are older and have outdated language and drafting style
  • may be heavily amended or partly repealed
  • contain related areas of law that could be combined with other Acts into a single Act
  • are frequently used or affect a significant sector of the public
  • are unlikely to be substantively amended by other Bills during the revision process
  • are not being reviewed (so not expected to be the subject of reform recommendations)
  • will be more accessible to people if revised.

Draft programme

The draft programme below has been developed with agencies responsible for the legislation. Work on three of the Acts on the second revision programme (2018–2020) will continue in this third programme. Work on others will not continue, as substantive issues identified cannot be dealt with in a revision Bill.

This draft programme focuses on revising individual or smaller groupings of Acts, in contrast with the previous programmes.

This is a provisional list: the revision exercise itself will determine the suitable form, title, and location of the re-enacted law.

Revision Bills proposed to be started 2021–2023Acts proposed for revisionReasons for revisionAdministering agency
Civil Liability Legislation Bill
  • Law Reform Act 1936
  • Law Reform Act 1944
  • age
  • contain repealed provisions
  • improve accessibility
Ministry of Justice
Commerce Bill Commerce Act 1986
  • heavily-amended and repealed
  • applies widely and of interest to consumers
  • reduce complexity
  • improve accessibility
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
Disabled Persons Community Welfare Bill Disabled Persons Community Welfare Act 1975
  • heavily repealed
  • contains outdated definitions and references
Ministry of Social Development Ministry of Health
Flags, Emblems, Military Decorations, Distinctive Badges, and Names Protection Bill
  • Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981
  • Military Decorations and Distinctive Badges Act 1918
  • outdated language
  • related subject matter
  • improve accessibility
Ministry of Culture and Heritage
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Defence
Housing Bill Housing Act 1955
  • important Act
  • used frequently
  • dated language and form
  • improve clarity
Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
Juries Bill Juries Act 1981
  • applies broadly
  • heavily-amended
  • needs modernising
Ministry of Justice
Land Valuation Proceedings Bill Land Valuation Proceedings Act 1948
  • age
  • out of date language
  • number of repealed provisions and schedules
Ministry of Justice
Land Information New Zealand
Maori Purposes Bill Maori Purposes Acts 1931-1980
  • 37 Acts
  • heavily repealed
  • age
  • obsolete references
  • improve accessibility 
Te Puni Kōkiri
Maori Trust Boards Bill Maori Trust Boards Act 1955
  • age
  • dated language and form
Te Puni Kōkiri
Summary Proceedings Bill Summary Proceedings Act 1957
  • age
  • number of repealed provisions
  • provide a basis for a future substantive review of the infringement system
Ministry of Justice
Tax Administration Bill Tax Administration Act 1994
  • significant tax Act
  • heavily amended with mix of styles
  • structure lacks coherence
Inland Revenue Department
Valuers Bill Valuers Act 1948
  • age
  • outdated language
Land Information New Zealand
Revisions that are expected to be enacted during 3-year period

Disabled Persons Community Welfare Bill

Flags, Emblems, Military Decorations, Distinctive Badges and Names Protection Bill

Land Valuation Proceedings Bill

Maori Purposes Bill

Tax Administration Bill

Valuers Bill
Revisions on which work is expected to continue during 3-year period Other revision Bills

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About the revision process

Revision background

The Law Commission noted in 2008 that many Acts in New Zealand are difficult to find or to understand. A number of them are old and their language and drafting styles are out-dated, yet they may affect many New Zealanders. Some are heavily amended and contain a mix of old and new drafting styles, obsolete or repealed provisions, and complicated numbering. Rules on a related topic are scattered across several Acts, adding to the complexity of legislative regimes and compliance costs.

To address these issues, the Law Commission recommended the systematic revision of New Zealand legislation. Accordingly, the Legislation Act 2012 requires a three-yearly revision programme to make the law more accessible to people.

Revision: purpose and powers

Revising an Act means rewriting it in clearer, up-to-date language, and in a modern drafting style and structure, to make it more accessible, readable, and easier to understand. The process can change the layout and the wording of the legislation, but not its substantive legal effect.

Revision Bills can be used to:

  • combine or divide Acts or parts of Acts
  • change the Title
  • omit redundant and spent provisions
  • renumber and rearrange provisions
  • update to the current drafting style and format, and generally to better express the spirit and meaning of the law
  • include new purpose or overview provisions and examples, diagrams, and other devices to improve accessibility and readability
  • correct typographical, punctuation, and grammatical errors.

A revision Bill will not make substantive changes, because only minor changes to the effect of the law are allowed under section 31(2A) of the Legislation Act 2012.  Those permitted changes are to:

  • clarify Parliament’s intent, resolve ambiguity, or reconcile inconsistencies between provisions
  • update monetary amounts for CPI changes (other than jurisdiction amounts, or offences or penalties) or provide for amounts to be set by Order in Council
  • update provisions for technological changes if those amendments are consistent with the spirit and meaning of the law
  • relocate matters of general principle in Acts and matters of detail in secondary legislation, by:
    • omitting forms, schedules, or other matters of detail from the Acts, and authorise those matters to be prescribed by Orders in Council
    • inserting matters in Acts that are currently prescribed by Order in Council made under the Acts
    • making any other necessary or consequential change.

Revision programme and consultation

The Parliamentary Counsel Office is responsible for preparing the revision programme in consultation with the Government departments that administer the legislation.  The Attorney-General is required, under section 30 of the Legislation Act 2012, to invite public submissions on each new programme before seeking the Government’s approval and presenting the revision programme to Parliament.

Revision Bills and certification before introduction

The Chief Parliamentary Counsel will prepare the Bills on the programme. Revision Bills must then be certified by a panel of lawyers comprising:

  • a retired High Court Judge (currently Hon John Priestley CNZM QC)
  • the President of the Law Commission (currently Amokura Kawharu)
  • the Solicitor-General (currently Una Jagose QC)
  • the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (currently Fiona Leonard).

The certifiers must be satisfied that:

  • the revision powers have been exercised appropriately
  • the revision Bill does not change the effect of the law except as allowed under section 31(2A) of the Legislation Act 2012.

They may require a Bill to be changed before they certify it.

After certification, the Bill and its certificate are provided to the Attorney-General to introduce into Parliament.

Section 32 of the Legislation Act 2012 sets out what an explanatory note of a revision Bill must include. It must state, in general terms, the inconsistencies, anomalies, discrepancies, and omissions that were identified when preparing the revision, and how they have been resolved in the Bill.

Parliamentary process for revision Bills

Parliamentary examination of revision Bills is streamlined because these Bills as introduced have no element of new policy in them, and will not make substantive changes to the law. The parliamentary process is set out in Standing Order 276 in the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.

Enacted revision Bills

The first revision Bill to be enacted, now the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017, revised and consolidated 12 general contract and commercial Acts. There has been a lot of interest in this Act, which is frequently viewed on the New Zealand Legislation website. It has won the 2017 WriteMark Best Plain English Legal Document award. The judging panel said: "The revised Act is a great step forward in New Zealand for plain English legislation. And the intended audience has a much clearer picture of contractual law in New Zealand."

The second revision Bill to be enacted, now the Partnership Act 2019, revised and replaced the Partnership Act 1908. It applies to 64,400 unincorporated partnerships that filed GST returns for the year ending 31 March 2020, and also to an unknown number of non-GST registered unincorporated partnerships. As well as using modern plain language techniques to modernise the legislation, the new Act includes 10 minor amendments clarifying Parliament’s intent and reconciling inconsistencies.

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