New Zealand Law Society - PCO looks to write legislation in plain language

PCO looks to write legislation in plain language

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

The Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) says it aims to have laws drafted in plain language.

In its Strategic Intentions paper to Parliament for 2017-2021, the PCO also says it intends to improve the use of te reo Māori in legislative papers.

The PCO is responsible for drafting Government bills and legislative instruments, including drafting amendments to bills required by select committees.

“Over the next four years, the PCO will work to ensure the revision process is effective,” the paper notes.

The PCO’s goals in the short-to-medium term all have the aim of achieving its vision that New Zealand is best served by legislation that is fit for purpose, constitutionally sound, and accessible to all current and future users.

The goals are to:

  • Make all secondary legislation available online
  • Complete the online historical collection of laws
  • Draft laws in plain language
  • Use more standard provisions in legislation
  • Improve legislative capability across the Government
  • Increase the capacity in the use of te reo Māori in legislation
  • Improve the process for making legislation.

Plain language

“The use of plain language in legislation is fundamental to ensuring that ordinary people, not only lawyers or administrators, can understand and use the law, and so to promoting the rule of law. The PCO is developing a strategy to reinvigorate our plain language culture. The strategy aims to make New Zealand’s legislation more accessible, improve the legal effectiveness of that legislation, and make plain language the standard for how the whole office communicates,” the paper says.  

“Working with external agencies such as Te Puni Kōkiri and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission), the PCO will develop its systems and capability for producing dual-language legislation, where appropriate, and for including te reo and Māori legal concepts in legislation more generally. Our aim is to be well-positioned to ensure te reo Māori is used effectively and accessibly in legislation.”