A law change which would have made it easier for trans people to change their gender on official documents has fallen off the Government's agenda.
But the minister in charge of the law change, Tracey Martin, says investigations have found that many of the hurdles for trans people do not require a law change.
A working group had found it was possible, but not widely known, that people could change their birth certificate without attending court and without undergoing invasive medical procedures.
Martin, the Internal Affairs Minister, confirmed to the Herald that there would be no law change this Parliamentary term.
"It's still on pause. Due to Covid and the complications around it, it's very unlikely it is going to move forward prior to the election."
It would have allowed trans people to change gender on their birth certificate by signing a statutory declaration. That would be far easier and more accessible than the existing system, which required people to apply to the Family Court and present medical evidence showing they had changed their physical attributes.
The bill was controversially deferred last February. The Government said at the time that it had not been properly consulted on, because the changes relating to self-identification were added after the public consultation phase.
It also said the potential ramifications of the change had not been fully considered, such as what it would mean for women's spaces like single sex schools, prisons and refuges. A select committee had already found that the change would not do any harm, but the Government wanted more advice and consultation on the issue.
Gender Minorities Aotearoa national co-ordinator Te Ahi Wi-Hongi said they were disappointed the law was unable to progress this term, and they were now concerned that it might never happen.
"It's hard to say what will happen after an election and who will be making the decisions. We are aware that things might remain how they are now."
While the bill was deferred, Martin set up a working group to look at changes which could be made without changing the law. It reported back in February, but its report has not been publicly released.
The group found that the process was poorly understood by both the trans community and the courts.
"There were people saying 'I've got to lift my skirt' in court and that sort of thing, and the working group really uncovered the fact that it could be done on paper," Martin said.
"So we don't need to remove any barriers. We just need people to be educated, both in the courts and having access in the community to lawyers that know that is what can happen."
The Family Court was now seeking further professional development to update its judges on trans issues.
Martin also said that an assumption a person needed to undergo "a full sex change" before they could change their birth certificate was also incorrect. Getting hormone treatment alone was enough to satisfy the criteria, she said.
She planned to get advice on whether attending counselling would also qualify as medical evidence to change a birth certificate.
Wi-Hongi, who was a member of the working group, said some trans people did not want to get hormone treatment or surgery or were unable to.
"There shouldn't be a prescriptive set of ways that you have to change your body. It should be enough that they psychologically know who they are and can express that."
Wi-Hongi agreed that it was not widely known that trans people could change their birth certificate without actually appearing in court. Not having to personally appear before a judge was a much less daunting process, they said.
"If it's a small town, and the trans person knows a person at the court, there is a lot of anxiety about going in there and outing themself as a trans person."