Plain English Awards

celebrate New Zealand's clearest communicators

Winner: Best Plain English Legal Document 2017

Parliamentary Counsel Office

Judge Maryland Spencer with Scott Murray from Parliamentary Counsel Office.


Document name

Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017


Judges’ comments

Parliamentary Counsel Office did a great job of combining multiple Acts that were a confusing hodgepodge of legislation into a single intelligible Act.

A clear understanding of the audience and consultation with these groups made the project stronger. The explanations in the legislation were particularly useful.

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.


Media statement

I am delighted that the Parliamentary Counsel Office has won in the 2017 WriteMark Plain English Awards for the Best Plain English Legal Document.

We are committed to making the legislation we write and publish as clear and simple as possible. This year we launched a new Plain Language Standard and Checklist to promote plain language in everything we write, from emails to legislation.

We have started to rewrite some of New Zealand’s older Acts by modernising and restructuring them without making any changes to the law. The new Contract and Commercial Law Act marks the start of this work.

Important law about contracts and commercial transactions affecting many New Zealanders was previously scattered across 12 elderly Acts — some dating back to 1908. Our mission was to bring the rules together in one place; to make them easier to find, use, and understand; and to provide clarity and certainty for the people and businesses who apply them.

The task of rewriting these Acts was challenging. We were pleased when a legal commentator described the new Act as a ‘greatest hits’ album — ‘a compilation of old tracks, digitally remastered for modern-day application’. Winning this category gives us confidence that we are on the right track with our plain language and revision work.

Fiona Leonard
Chief Parliamentary Counsel