Meaning of ‘subject to’

Anastasiou v Wallace [2020] NSWLEC 14

A development consent was ‘subject to’ the other provisions of the legislation12.  Pain J (at [44-45]) accepted this meant that consent provisions were subservient to the rest of the Act13.  As there was no inconsistency, ‘subject to’ had no work to do.

Another recent case considers a water access licence ‘subject to’ certain irrigation requirements14.  Robson J (at [190]) held that the phrase meant ‘akin to “in addition to”’ – that is, the licence was conditional on actual performance of the additional requirements’15.  These 2 cases show how the same phrase in different situations can take subtly different meanings.  iTip – context and purpose hold the keys to meaning.

This principle is from Episode 59 of interpretation NOW!


12 s 4.4 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW).

13 Medical [2017] NSWCA 282 (at [87]), Pearce 9th ed (at [4.53]).

14 2 weeks later in the same court – Harris (No 3) [2020] NSWLEC 18.

15 Jones (1988) 55 NTR 17 (at 21), Akpata [2003] FCA 1117 (at [10]).