Purpose and text

Justice Susan Glazebrook (2015) article

‘Purpose is king (or is it?)’ – this is the question posed by Glazebrook J of New Zealand in a recent article1.  After referring to the ‘modern purposive approach’2, the judge says that (A) ‘purpose is there to help ascertain the meaning of text and not to override or dominate it’, and (B) the ‘text is the starting point with purpose as a cross-check’. 

The judge concludes that ‘text should be the starting point (and thus is king)’.  The same is true in Australia where the correct approach is ‘text > context > text’3.  If you start with purpose, there is a ‘risk of distorting the meaning’.  iTip – this is key. 

This case is from Episode 25 of interpretationNOW!


Glazebrook J (2015) 14 Otago Law Review 61.

s 5(1) of the Interpretation Act 1999 (NZ).

Episodes 2, 4 and 7.