This is a single section from Chapter 4. Read the full chapter here.

The clear statement principle

Legislation that overrides fundamental rights and values must use clear and unambiguous wording.

If any of these principles are intended to be departed from in a particular case, Parliament must use clear and unambiguous language to do so. Without clear words to the contrary, courts will presume that general words in legislation are intended to operate consistently with the principles. As to rights, this clear statement principle is reflected in section 6 of NZBORA: “Wherever an enactment can be given a meaning that is consistent with the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights, that meaning shall be preferred to any other meaning.” It follows that if a meaning inconsistent with the Bill of Rights is intended this will need to have been expressed very clearly. (Recall, however, that the Bill of Rights contemplates that rights may be limited so long as the limitations are “reasonable” and “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”—meaning that a law imposing only reasonable limits on rights is not inconsistent with NZBORA).

This page was last modified on