NZ adoption laws 'discriminatory', tribunal rules

NZ adoption laws 'discriminatory', tribunal rules

There's a growing chorus to change adoption laws in New Zealand, with a Human Rights Review Tribunal ruling this week declaring the 60-year-old law "discriminatory".

A decision on the case taken by Adoption Action in 2013 was released this week, agreeing six areas of the Act from 1955 are contrary to the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights Act.

Labour's justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says the ruling is the latest in a number of decisions and reviews on the Act, including one from the Law Commission in 2000.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Commission, Family Court judges and the Law Society have all said New Zealand needs to update its laws.

"Successive National ministers have recognised the problem, but have all said adoption reform is not a priority. There are a mounting number of groups who openly disagree with that view," says Ms Ardern.

But Family First isn't one of those groups, saying changing New Zealand's adoption laws would be "flawed and unnecessary".

"What the proposals are really about is removing appropriate protections and focusing on the rights of adults rather than the rights of children," national director Bob McCoskrie says.

"There is no shortage of suitable married couples wanting to adopt."

However, he believes some changes are needed around open and closed adoptions, and better recognition of whangai adoptions -- where a child is raised by a member of their whanau or extended family.

Mr McCoskrie believes single parent and same-sex couple adoption where there's no biological connection or surrogacy could harm children because "it intentionally creates motherless and fatherless families -- all at the same time as we express concern at the high rates of absent fathers and solo parent households".

Ms Ardern says the Government has 120 days to respond to the ruling, and has urged the minister to prioritise adoption reform.

"The time has most certainly come."