Treasury officials thwarted attempts by Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter to introduce a gender lens to bids from ministers to get more funding in the Budget.
Mid-last year, Genter wrote to Finance Minister Grant Robertson, regarding the possibility of implementing "gender budgeting pilots".
A Treasury memo, obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act (OIA) revealed that Genter wanted the programme launched in time for this year's Budget.
• Julie Anne Genter issues statement over secret letter
• Chief Ombudsman to investigate Julie Anne Genter's secret letter
• Comment: Julie Anne Genter's secret letter hoo-ha
• Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter promises action on period poverty before Budget 2020
The pilot would have meant that agencies and Government departments would be required to put their Budget bids through gender lenses – essentially, assessing what the spending would mean for women.
But the memo said that Treasury did not recommend the scheme.
"The Treasury's experience of previous Budgets shows that adding additional analytical requirements to the Budget process likely has little impact on the quality of the bids."
It went on to say that there was a risk that Government departments may treat a gender lens as a "compliance exercise".
University of Auckland Professor Jennifer Curtin – an academic who has done extensive work on gender politics – said the Treasury should "without hesitation" reconsider its position so the process is ready by Budget 2021.
"It is both doable and desirable and could still happen."
Julie Anne Genter issues statement over secret letter
Chief Ombudsman to investigate Julie Anne Genter's secret letter
Asked about her request being turned down, Genter said she would: "continue to work collaboratively toward solutions, so that all New Zealanders can enjoy the benefits of gender equity".
She added that she "certainly feel the gravity, as Minister for Women, to advocate in government for gender equality".
In a letter sent from Robertson to Genter – also obtained under the OIA – the Finance Minister lays out his reasoning for not setting up the programme.
He said that the Government was committed to gender equality and this was supported by the Treasury's living standards framework, which already has a similar sort of gender lens.
Curtin has been involved in advising the Treasury on gender issues.
She said the proposal, as outlined by the OIA, would have been a way to help track the way policy proposals or programmes might differently impact diverse groups of women and men.
Curtin added that it would have ensured more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable effects of how the Government spends its money.
"It can also help to increase equality, reduce poverty, and address a range of other challenges faced by different groups of women and men."
The Treasury memo was written in August last year, well before the shape and nature of the budget was shifted dramatically due to Covid-19.