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What Does ‘Includes’ Mean in New Zealand Legislation?

Question from Jim, What Does ‘Includes’ Mean in New Zealand Legislation?

Answer from AI:

In New Zealand, as in many other jurisdictions, the interpretation of legislation is a critical aspect of legal practice and understanding. The term ‘includes’ is often encountered in statutory texts and plays a significant role in how provisions are interpreted and applied. Understanding its meaning and implications can help clarify the scope and application of a law.

General Interpretation of ‘Includes’

When the term ‘includes’ is used in an act, it generally serves to expand the definition or scope of the subject matter to which it refers. Unlike ‘means’, which provides a definitive and exhaustive definition, ‘includes’ suggests that the list that follows is not exhaustive. This means there could be other elements or instances that fall within the scope of the definition, even if they are not specifically mentioned.

Implications of ‘Includes’ in Legal Interpretation

The use of ‘includes’ has several implications for interpreting legislation:

  • Expansive Interpretation: It indicates that the legislature intended the definition or scope to be interpreted broadly, allowing for inclusion of items not explicitly listed.
  • Non-Exhaustive Lists: The items or examples that follow ‘includes’ are illustrative, not limiting. This means that other items, although not mentioned, could also be covered if they fall within the general nature or category being described.
  • Guidance for Application: While providing flexibility, the use of ‘includes’ also offers guidance on the types of items or circumstances the legislature considered relevant to the provision.

Legal Framework and Interpretation Acts

In New Zealand, the interpretation of words like ‘includes’ in legislation is guided by the Interpretation Act 1999. This Act provides principles for interpreting statutes, aiming to ascertain lawmakers’ intent and apply laws consistently.

For specific guidance on interpreting ‘includes’ and other terms, reference to the Interpretation Act 1999 is advisable. This Act outlines general rules that apply unless a different intention appears in the legislation.

When Legal Advice May Be Necessary

While understanding the general use of ‘includes’ in legislation is helpful, its application can vary depending on the context and the specific law in question. In cases where the interpretation of a statute is unclear or its application to a particular situation is complex, consulting with a legal professional is recommended. Legal advice can provide:

  • Clarification on how ‘includes’ and other interpretative terms apply to your specific circumstances.
  • Guidance on the broader legal context and how it affects the interpretation of a statute.
  • Assistance with navigating legal disputes or challenges related to statutory interpretation.


In summary, the term ‘includes’ in New Zealand legislation is used to indicate that a definition or list is not exhaustive, allowing for a broader interpretation that encompasses items not explicitly mentioned. This approach provides flexibility in applying the law but also requires careful consideration of the legislative intent and context. For specific legal issues or complex interpretations, seeking professional legal advice is advisable to ensure accurate understanding and compliance with the law.

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