Review of the access provisions in the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995

Overview

In 2016 the Department of Internal Affairs completed its review of the access provisions in accordance with the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Amendment Act 2008 (Amendment Act) on behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs. More information on the changes made by the Amendment Act can be found in the New Zealand Parliament website which includes the Select Committee report, Supplementary Order Papers and the parliamentary debates.

Briefly, the access provisions set out:

  • what information can be made available about registered births, deaths, marriages, civil unions, and name changes (BDM information);
  • who can access BDM information; and
  • where, how and when the BDM information can be made available.

The then Minister, Hon Peter Dunne presented his report to Parliament in October 2016 and requested that Cabinet issue drafting instructions for a bill to amend the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995 incorporating recommendations arising from the review and other amendments identified by the Department. This resulted in the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill (the Bill) that can be found on the New Zealand Parliament website.

The Bill was introduced to the House by the previous Government in August 2017 and was read for the first time in December 2017. It was unanimously referred to the Governance and Administration Select Committee.

Amendments were made to the Bill at Select Committee stage allowing individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate through a self-identification process.

Bill deferred – February 2019

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Tracey Martin deferred the Bill after advice from Crown Law highlighted issues with clauses inserted by the Select Committee after public consultation had closed. These clauses would allow individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate via an administrative process based on self-identification. This is a substantial change from the current Family Court process that requires evidence of medical treatment.

View or download the Minister’s press release here: Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill to be deferred

Improving the process to change sex on a birth certificate under current legislation

When she deferred the Bill, the Minister also announced work to make practical improvements to the current process. In February 2019 Hon Tracey Martin asked her officials to look at whether:

  • any Births, Deaths and Marriages fees associated with applications to update sex on birth certificates and with associated name changes can be removed;
  • successful applications can lead to gender records on passports and citizenship certificates being automatically updated to make it easier for applicants; and
  • requirements of the current process can be made clearer, such as what is required when providing medical evidence.

On 1 August 2019, Minister Martin announced that the Registrar-General is waiving fees associated with applying to change the registered sex on a birth certificate: Government reduces barriers to changing birth registration

She also announced the appointment of a Working Group to advise on practical improvements to the current process to change registered sex on birth certificates. Further information on the Working Group is available here: Working Group for reducing barriers to changing registered sex.

What happens next

The Department of Internal Affairs is currently considering the legal implications of the issue raised by the Select Committee.

In addition, the Minster for Internal Affairs is leading work to make practical improvements to the current process. In February Hon Tracey Martin asked her officials look at whether:

  • any Births, Deaths and Marriages fees associated with applications to update sex on birth certificates and with associated name changes can be removed;
  • successful applications can lead to gender records on passports and citizenship certificates being automatically updated to make it easier for applicants; and
  • requirements of the current process can be made clearer, such as what is required when providing medical evidence.

Select Committee Report back – August 2018

The Governance and Administration Committee reported back in August 2018 on the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill. There were 67 submissions, including 26 oral submissions.

What the submitters said

Individual submissions can be viewed here: BDMRR Bill submissions

The Committee recommended changes to Bill to allow individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate through a self-identification process. You can read the full report of the select committee here: Final report (Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill) (PDF, 669k)

The Departmental report can be viewed here: Departmental Report for the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill (PDF 1414k)

First reading in Parliament – December 2017

The Bill was read for a first time in December 2017 and it was unanimously referred to the Governance and Administration Committee.

Bill introduced to Parliament – August 2017

The Bill was introduced to the House by the previous Government in August 2017.

Minister's final report to Parliament – October 2016

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Peter Dunne presented his report on the review of the access provisions in the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act to Parliament on 20 October 2016.

View or download the report here: Minister's final report to Parliament – October 2016

View or download the Cabinet paper here: Review of access provisions in the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995

Proposals paper – March 2016

The Department issued a Proposals Paper — Access to the registers: births, deaths, marriages, civil unions and name changes - have your say! (PDF, 811kb) — in March 2016. The Paper responded to submissions on the earlier Discussion Paper. Thirty-two submissions were received by the closing date of 29 April 2016.

What the submitters said

Discussion document – January–February 2015

The Department issued a Discussion Paper – Access to the registers: births, deaths, marriages, civil unions and name changes (PDF, 140kb) – in January 2015. The Paper sought feedback on people’s experience of the access provisions. Eighty submissions were received by the closing date of 25 February 2015.

What submitters said

Background: Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Amendment Act 2008

The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Amendment Act 2008 (Amendment Act) amended the (then) Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act 1995.

The Act provides for the registration of information about births, adoptions, changes of name, sexual assignment and reassignment, marriages, civil unions, and deaths. It also provides for public and government agency access to that information and for the issue of birth, death, marriage and civil union certificates. These activities are administered by the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, whose appointment is governed by the Act.

The Amendment Act made amendments to improve the Registrar-General’s ability to collect and verify information for the purposes of the Act, better regulate access to that information, and modernise the Act to take account of technological and social developments.

The Amendment Act came into effect on 25 January 2009.