NZ First toilet bill: Not enough unisex loos in country, planning expert says

An urban planning academic says there are not enough unisex toilets in the country despite Winston Peter's suggestion that anyone who wants to use one can.

New Zealand First unveiled its 'Fair Access to Bathrooms Bill' earlier this month which the party said was primarily about the safety of women and girls.

The bill aims to ensure that all new non-domestic publicly accessible buildings provide separate, clearly demarcated, unisex and single sex bathrooms.

"New Zealand First campaigned to defend the right to privacy, personal safety, and freedom from harm for all New Zealanders, and this bill demonstrates a much-needed commonsense solution to an issue that has often been overshadowed by ideology," Peters said at the time.

Under the bill, anyone who used a single-sex toilet who was not the sex for which that toilet was designated would be fined.

Peters took to the social media platform X to promote the new bill, saying "It's not difficult".

In the post, the deputy prime minister also defined woman as, "Adult. Human. Female."

"So obviously he's getting into the transgender people in toilets debate there," Bill McKay, a senior lecturer in architecture and planning at the University of Auckland, told Nine to Noon.

McKay said that while many toilet designs complied with the Building Code, the rules were a minimum standard.

"Ask yourself when you last saw a queue outside male toilets [or] female toilets with a queue outside. They probably complied with the building code, but as I always say the built environment's racist, ageist, ableist and guess what, sexist as well."

According to the Building Code, there were two approaches to the design of toilet buildings, said McKay.

The first approach was to have male and female toilets with separate cubicles. However, the walls were not floor to ceiling and the wash hand basins are outside.

For male toilets, the urinals were out in the open and "really good school bullying territory as I seem to recall from my highschool," McKay said.

The second option, which he said was "much more prevalent these days", was cubicles with floor to ceiling walls, proper doors and wash hand basins that were inside the cubicle.

While these were "much more pleasant", according to McKay, they could have a slower turnover.

McKay said unisex toilets were becoming more prevalent, particularly in bars and restaurants because they saved space, but they tended to be a bit more expensive.

Personally, he did not think unisex toilets worked in bars.

"Young women don't want some old drunk guy following them in to the unisex toilets [and] female toilets can be a safe space for discussion."

However unisex toilets in malls, cinemas and libraries were a good idea, McKay said.

He pointed to the example of a father with his young daughter or an elderly couple to assist each other.

"For good design ... think of the users and go beyond the Building Code minimum.

"The New Zealand way of course is to do the adequate, cheap option ... that's why transgender people will often not find a unisex option anywhere."