New Zealanders convicted of outdated homosexual offences are a step closer to having their criminal records cleared.
The Government today introduced legislation to wipe historic homosexual offences, after signalling in February it would change the law.
It will allow nearly 200 people convicted before homosexual law reform in 1986 to have their crimes erased.
Justice Minister Amy Adams said the "tremendous" hurt and stigma suffered could never be fully undone.
"But I hope that this bill will go some way toward addressing that.
She said allowing historical convictions for homosexual offences to remain on a person's criminal record perpetuated the stigma such convictions carried.
"A person can be further disadvantaged if they are required to disclose their conviction or it appears on a criminal history check."
The law change will allow people convicted of indecency between males, sodomy, or keeping places of resort for homosexual acts to apply to the Secretary of Justice to have their record expunged.
Families of convicted people will also be able to apply on their behalf.
About 1000 New Zealanders are believed to have convictions relating to homosexual acts. However, not all of them will be eligible to have their records wiped because they were also convicted of other offences.
The bill introduced to Parliament today says the test for eligibility is whether the person's conduct is legal at the time of the application.
Applicants will only have to submit documents to the secretary and will not have to turn up for an oral hearing. The final decision will be made by the secretary. Affected people will not be able to claim compensation.
"If a person's conviction is expunged, the conviction will not appear on a criminal history check for any purpose and they will be entitled to declare they had no such conviction when required to under New Zealand law," Adams said.
The bill also creates a new offence for anyone who has access to criminal records and discloses information about expunged crimes. It is punishable by a fine of up to $20,000.
Official documents show that the Ministry of Justice considered proactively identifying people with convictions and assessed their eligibility for a pardon.
The ministry advised against this option, saying it would require significant resources and could have a negative impact on some people who did not want to revisit their conviction.
There was also consideration of a Royal prerogative of mercy - a formal pardon usually used for miscarriages of justice. The ministry said this would send a stronger message to affected people.
But it concluded that it was not necessary to get the Governor General and Justice Minister involved in what were relatively straightforward cases, and that it could weaken the significance of past pardons for miscarriages of justice.