When a funeral director raised his concerns at a Grey Power meeting about how death certificates omitted the names of children who had died before their parents, it struck a chord with Jo Schneebeli of Whangamatā.
"Adrian Catran told us that day back in 2012, and it rang alarm bells for me. I've lost two daughters, and the thought that they wouldn't be acknowledged was horrific."
Schneebeli's husband Dick died before the couple lost their two daughters, Vicky and Keri. They have a living child, Scott.
What she and many others did not realise because so many people use the services of a funeral director to register a death, is that children who die before their parents were not named on their parents' death certificate.
Registrations of a death must be received by Births, Deaths and Marriages within three working days of a burial or cremation. The form must include information about the person who died, their relationship status, how they died, when and where they were buried or cremated and the names of their own parents and their children.
However, only the names of their living children appear on the Death Certificate.
"It felt as if my two girls hadn't mattered," Schneebeli said.
"I thought 'no this isn't right, it has to be fixed'."
Because her husband had died before her girls died, it would appear as though they were her husband's daughters, while she only had a son.
"Somebody researching our family would say 'how come he had three children and Jo only had one?'"
Schneebeli wrote a letter, but her campaigning got no traction with the Minister of Internal Affairs at the time, Chris Tremain, or Peter Dunne after him. She tried to use the help of Grey Power, as she was president of the Whangamatā branch at the time, and while this organisation raised it on an advocacy visit to the Beehive, still nothing happened.
"The initial response from my first letter to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in 2012, was that the Department of Internal Affairs might be guided by public support to address an actual issue. It was at this stage I approached Scott Simpson for help as I knew that people just were totally unaware of the current situation and that was what I needed to address to progress the issue from the Registrar's response to my letter. I kept up the letters, drawing on Scott's parliamentary contacts.
"Only eight weeks ago, it all somehow came to the attention of Minister Tracey Martin, who contacted Jo to tell her she wanted to progress the issue I had raised with the death certificates.
"Over the years the Government hasn't done anything, and then finally, [Minister] Tracey Martin picked it up, she said 'this has to change' — and change it has."
Martin was first elected to Parliament as a New Zealand First list MP based in Warkworth, in 2011, having spent the majority of her pre-parliament time on parent-based fundraising and volunteer committees in that area.
Her recent member's bill, Social Services (Orphans and Unsupported Children's Clothing Allowance) Amendment Bill, passed with unanimous support at first reading and returned to the House from select committee with a recommendation that it pass into law.
Last week Jo was presented with a framed copy of the Order in Council amending the Births, Deaths and Marriages regulations and Tracey Martin and Scott Simpson visited her home.
"I had no idea until Tracey arrived here that it was all 'done and dusted' so to speak — it only required a change of regulation not a change of law. It's all been quite overwhelming and emotional, and my phone has been red-hot with people saying they just didn't know.
"It's very special," she said. "Finally, after six years, a Minister of Internal Affairs was empathetic enough to look into it. Such a fantastic response for all those families out there that this has affected over the years."