New Zealand has an Interpretation Act 1999 with the purpose:

(a) to state principles and rules for the interpretation of legislation; and

(b) to shorten legislation; and

(c) to promote consistency in the language and form of legislation.

Many other refer to this Act for basic definitions such as the definition of a person:

person includes a corporation sole, a body corporate, and an unincorporated body

It does not define what a "corporation sole", "body corporate" or an "unincorporated body" are.

For an Act that is supposed to state the rules of interpretation this seems to be a very unclear definition.

My first questions are why would this be omitted? Are they such well defined terms in law that there can be no question to whether something meets that definition?

The Australian Law Dictionary defines "corporation sole" as:

A corporate entity embodied in a single titular head whose personal identity changes as the office is vacated and a new appointment made.

For example the Governor General.

The The Oxford Dictionary of New Zealandisms says that "body corporate" is:

an association of individual owners responsible for the maintenance and administration of property held in common...

This is the definition that 99% of New Zealanders will say if you ask them.

It probably intended to mean the more general definition found in Oxford A Dictionary of Accounting:

A *corporation consisting of a body of persons legally authorized to act as one person, while being distinct from that person.

Assuming we replace persons with individual or some other term that could work.

Oxford A Dictionary of Law defines "unincorporated body" as:

An association that has no legal personality distinct from those of its members (compare corporation).

Both of these "bodies" rely on there being an "association".

The Australian Law Dictionary defines "association" as:

An entity created by the action of combining together for a common purpose; confederation, league (see incorporated association);...

An entity is... (you get the idea)

The problem with written definitions is that you need a basic vocabulary to start with so you could continue this exercise forever however I would expect the definition of person be a lot clearer than it is.

Was I combined together for a common purpose with no legal distinction from myself? Am I a person?

1 Answer 1


You will note that the quoted definition says that

person includes a corporation sole, a body corporate, and an unincorporated body

What it doesn't say, but almost certainty intends, is that "person" also includes a natural person, that is an ordinary human being with a single body.

What is happening here (I think) is that the law is specifying all the other things that will be treated in some way like a natural person, while it also assumes the "ordinary" or "plain English" meaning of person.

Also, the law is assuming all the ordinary standard legal terminology, such as "corporation sole" and only giving definitions where the usage is in some way different from the standard meaning, or where there are multiple meanings in common use and it wants tom specify one. This makes the law shorter, but harder to understand for anyone not well-versed in that specific legal tradition (a non-lawyer, or say a lawyer from a civil-law country).

So I am reasonably confident that you are, in fact, a person under this law. (Unless perhaps you are actually a robot or a space alien, after all on the net who knows. LOL)

  • 1
    Or an animal. But not a river wcel.org/blog/…
    – Dale M
    Mar 2, 2021 at 4:15
  • Thanks! I totally overlooked the word includes, good thing I'm not a lawyer. I was expecting a complete definition something like "person is a person under ordinary concepts, or is corporation sole, or a body corporate, or an unincorporated body". The Income Tax Act for example does that for the definition of income (well once you click through to provisions in the linked part).
    – steinybot
    Mar 5, 2021 at 2:42
  • What about Inclusio unius (est) exclusio alterius?
    – steinybot
    Mar 5, 2021 at 2:53
  • Hmm I think I answered that myself. I think that maxim just means that if it were a "person is A, B, C" then it excludes D. But "person includes A, B, C" makes no statement about D.
    – steinybot
    Mar 5, 2021 at 3:01

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