The New Zealand Legislation website is about to become a source of official legislation.
As from January 6, 2014, New Zealand will become one of the few comparable jurisdictions to provide free official up-to-date online legislation to the public, says Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.
The change is a result of the Legislation Act 2012, which up-dates and modernises the publication of legislation.
"Transparency is a key feature of good law," Finlayson says. "Online publication will ensure official legislation is available to the public, appropriately and conveniently."
At present, only legislation printed and published by the Parliamentary Counsel Office or the New Zealand Government is official.
In the courts, official legislation is taken to correctly state the law unless the contrary is shown.
"Access to official legislation online is important to anyone who needs to know what the law is, because of the assurance of accuracy that it provides," Finlayson says. "It also frees them from relying on potentially out-of-date printed legislation."
However, not all legislation on the website will be official. It will apply only to legislation in PDF format, and only to PDFs that display the New Zealand Coat of Arms on the first page. This will include the latest versions of all principal legislation enacted or made since 1931 (plus a few earlier Acts), and many other point-in-time versions.
A printout of an official PDF is also official.
The New Zealand Legislation website will also introduce print on demand, a shopping-cart-type system allowing users to select legislation for printing, and order it through a commercial printer. Users will still be able to print their own copies of legislation free of charge.
These changes mean that the Parliamentary Counsel Office will cease publication of annual bound volumes of legislation after the 2013 volumes are printed, and traditional hard-copy reprints after the current programme is completed. Official online legislation and print on demand will render them obsolete. The Parliamentary Counsel Office will continue to publish booklet versions of legislation, available from Legislation Direct and from some bookshops.